CHARLOTTE — AAA Carolinas predicts that a record 2.9 million Carolinians will journey 50 miles or more for Thanksgiving from Nov. 27 to Dec. 1.

The organization estimated 1.54 million North Carolinians and 750,000 South Carolinians will be traveling for the holiday — representing a 2.9 percent increase from 2018. According to Tiffany Wright, AAA Carolinas Traffic Safety Foundation President, 90 percent of those traveling this Thanksgiving will be doing so by vehicle.

“The sheer volume of vehicles on the road make this holiday such a dangerous time to travel — that’s why we can’t stress enough how important it is to practice safety behind the wheel,” Wright said in a statement. “Buckle up, don’t speed (and) never drive distracted or impaired.”

By the numbers

According to AAA Carolinas, the vast majority of travelers — around 1.34 million North Carolinians and 678,000 South Carolinians — will hit the road for the Thanksgiving holiday. This is nearly 2.8 percent more than last year.

The agency stated that the largest growth in holiday travel is by air at 4.6 percent — with 107,700 North Carolinians and 53,300 South Carolinians flying to their destinations.

Other modes of transportation — such as trains, cruises and buses — can expect use by 42,500 North Carolinians to arrive at their destination along with 21,300 South Carolinians.

Nationwide, more than 55 million Americans will kick off this holiday season with a Thanksgiving trip — the most since 2005, according to AAA Carolinas.

Thanksgiving traffic

The busiest days to travel are the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and the Sunday after Thanksgiving, according to AAA Carolinas. The agency recommends that motorists plan their travel around these days if possible. It claims that Thanksgiving Day is actually the best day to be on the roads.

INRIX, a global transportation analytics company, predicts road trips could take as much as four times longer than normal in major metros on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving.

In North Carolina during the 2018 Thanksgiving holiday period (Nov. 21, 2018-Nov.25, 2018) there were 3,805 crashes resulting in 22 fatalities and 1,481 injuries, according to AAA Carolinas. In South Carolina during the same time period, there were 1,280 collision resulting in 12 fatalities and 506 injuries.

“Law enforcement will be out in full force during the holiday,” AAA Carolinas stated.

The North Carolina State Highway Patrol is taking part in the Thanksgiving 1-40 Challenge — a joint operation among seven other states along the 1-40 corridor. Starting Nov. 21, troopers are staged every 20 miles along the major interstate.

Last year during the Thanksgiving holiday, AAA Carolinas assisted approximately 8,400 motorists — primary reasons being for dead batteries, flat tires and lockouts. AAA recommends motorists ensure that vehicles are in peak operating condition by having it inspected by a trusted repair shop. Nearby AAA Approved Auto Repair facility locations can be found at

Blackout Wednesday

AAA Carolinas stated that the eve of Thanksgiving has become a big night for binge drinking, as family and friends return home to reconnect for the holiday. It labeled this time as “Blackout Wednesday” and stated that many times the evening consists of over-drinking, which can lead to drunk driving.

“Blackout Wednesday, also known as Drinksgiving, can end with deadly consequences, so if you plan on drinking, have a plan,” added Wright in a statement. “If you don’t have a designated driver, call a friend or family member, taxi or car share service such as Uber or Lyft to get you home safely.”

In order to stay safe on the roads late at night, AAA urges motorists to:

  • Never drink and drive. Have a designated sober driver in place if planning to drink.
  • Utilize a ride sharing service such as Uber, Lyft or a taxi.
  • Stay off the roads the night
  • before Thanksgiving if possible.

Lower gas prices fuel road trips

AAA Carolinas stated that gas prices have been fluctuating as of late, but are currently cheaper than the national average at this time last year. It added that for the majority of Carolinians, prices average about 10 cents less than last Thanksgiving.

Gas price averages across the nation can be found at

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