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CHARLOTTE, N.C. – About 567,000 South Carolinians are expected to drive to their destination this Thanksgiving weekend, an increase of about 11,600 travelers over last year. A total of 630,000 South Carolinians are expected to travel 50 miles or more from home, with motorists composing about 90% of all travelers.
The Thanksgiving holiday period is defined as Wednesday, Nov. 27, to Sunday, Dec. 1. The highest number of travelers (37%) will depart on Wednesday and most will return on Sunday (33%). For air travel, the busiest departure date is Monday, Nov. 25, with the highest number expected to return the following Monday, Dec. 2, or later.
Thanksgiving is one of the most dangerous annual holidays due to its five-day length, with increased highway traffic concentrated particularly on Wednesday and Sunday. Last year, 13 people died in crashes on South Carolina highways over the holiday weekend, an 8% increase over the average daily fatality count for 2012.
“As a traditional family holiday, Thanksgiving is the busiest travel weekend of the year,” said David E. Parsons, president and CEO of AAA Carolinas. “Drivers should expect heavy congestion and plan on taking more time to reach their destination.”
South Carolina gas prices, averaging $3.07 today, are down 21 cents from Labor Day, Sept. 2, when they averaged $3.28. South Carolinians are paying six cents less at the pump compared to a year ago, when they paid $3.13 heading into the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.
The highest average price in South Carolina is in Charleston at $3.10 per gallon of unleaded; the least expensive average price is in Spartanburg at $2.98. South Carolina motorists can expect to see higher gas prices in nearby states of North Carolina ($3.23), Virginia ($3.13), Georgia ($3.22) and Tennessee ($3.08).
In spite of slightly lower airfares, down 1% from last year, fewer travelers will be taking to the skies this year, about 44,100 or 7% of all travelers. An estimated 18,900 (3%) will use other modes of transportation, such as train, boat or bus.
The roughly 40% of travelers not staying with relatives or friends will find hotel rates relatively flat to last year. AAA Three Diamond hotels average $142 per night, compared to $143 last year, while AAA Two Diamond hotels are $105 compared to $104 in 2012. AAA rates hotels from one to five Diamonds based on standards in physical attributes, hospitality and amenities. AAA Three Diamond hotels represent the largest number of AAA rated accommodations.
Car rental rates have increased 6%, from an average of $47 per day in 2012 to $50 per day this year.
The SC State Transport Police, the SC Trucking Association and SC Highway Patrol will be holding Safety Breaks at three rest stops around the state. These locations will be I-85 south bound at the Cherokee County Welcome Center, I-26 east bound at the Orangeburg Rest Area and I-95 north bound at the Colleton County Rest Area. Officers will be handing out safety materials and interacting with the public to encourage safe driving, seatbelt use and deter distracted driving.
South Carolina Department of Transportation prohibits lane closures on interstate highways and high-volume multilane routes during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, considered to be from noon on Wednesday, Nov. 27, until 6 a.m. Monday, Dec. 2.
For the latest on construction delays in North Carolina, go to the Department of Transportation website, www.ncdot.org. Click on Travel & Maps and then on the Traveler Information Management System for up-to-date traffic information related to closed travel lanes, accidents or expected congestion due to special events.
Survey data is taken from AAA’s Leisure Travel Index, AAA/HIS Global Insight holiday travel forecast and AAA Carolinas data.