Higher gasoline prices not expected to deter holiday travel
Gasoline prices may have increased, but ironically, so have plans for Thanksgiving travel as more people this year than last will visit family and friends to share that holiday meal.
“We go to my mother’s every year for Thanksgiving and this year will not be an exception,” said Joe Randall of Connellsville Township. “She lives in Ohio, and we will leave the morning before. We’ve been doing this since the kids were little and they are all married now and are planning to make the trip.”
Although gasoline prices are hovering at the $2.99 mark, the higher costs are not lowering enthusiasm.
“Thanksgiving is the only time that my entire family gets to see one another, and another dollar or two at the pump is not going to change that now or in the future as far as we are concerned,” Randall said.
He added that the trip to Elyria, Ohio, takes about three hours.
“We did car-pool one year because my daughter-in-law wanted to save money, but that was one long trip with all the little grandchildren piled in one van,” he said.
According to AAA, the average price for a gallon of gasoline in Western Pennsylvania is around $2.96 compared to $2.89 it was last year at this time. However, overall travel for last year was lower.
It is predicted that 1.18 million Pennsylvanians will travel at least 50 miles from home for Thanksgiving, which reflects an 11.4 percent increase from last year when only 1.06 set out for dinners elsewhere.
Of the 1.18 million expected to travel, the majority or 1.11 million will set out by car.
“Many Americans are in a better financial position than they were last year, although high unemployment and lingering economic uncertainty are still lingering concerns,” said Jim Lehman, executive vice president, AAA East Central. “Thanksgiving has always been a special time for families to visit their friends and loved ones. The trip will be even more special since some travelers elected to postpone their Thanksgiving celebrations last year.”
On a national scale, AAA predicts that 42.2 million Americans will travel the 50-plus miles, which is an 11.4 increase from 2009.
Since there will be more travelers out on the roads, unfortunately higher numbers of cars equals higher numbers of accidents, and AAA urges all travelers to practice safe tactics.
According to PennDOT, there were more than 4,500 crashes and 41 fatalities during Thanksgiving last year, with this number also including the weekend before and after the holiday. More than 500 of the crashes were alcohol-related.
AAA encourages drivers to abstain from drinking to assure a safe and happy holiday season.
Some tips from AAA include:
• Plan ahead and designate a nondrinking driver before any holiday party or celebration begins.
• Never get behind the wheel of a car when you’ve been drinking — even after just one drink.
• Do not hesitate to take the keys from friends or family members who may be impaired.
• Be a real friend: Call a taxi for those in need.
• Be a responsible host in reminding guests to stay safe and always offer alcohol-free beverages.