Holiday travel expected to climb; police say be cautious
As people prepare for the trek to relatives’ homes for food and family time, travel officials say they expect more holiday travelers this Thanksgiving weekend than last year.
Travel will rise because people may have skipped the holiday road trip the past couple of years, said AAA Chicago spokeswoman Beth Mosher.
Nationally, AAA expects 42.5 million people will travel 50 miles or more from home between today and Sunday, a 4 percent increase from last year, Mosher said. It’s predicted to be the first significant increase in holiday travel this year.
In Illinois, 2.23 million people will travel for the holiday, a 3.8 percent increase from last year, Mosher said. Two million people will travel by car and 179,000 by airplane.
Mosher said the economy is still weighing on people, but “Thanksgiving is the holiday that kind of defies all the odds.”
People are more likely to travel to spend time with family for Thanksgiving than they are for Memorial Day, Independence Day or Labor Day, she said. It tends to be a cheaper holiday because travelers typically stay with family and aren’t spending money on a lot of things.
Tollway authorities expect about 10 million vehicles to use the system from last Monday through Sunday, which is similar to last year, said Jan Kemp, assistant press secretary for the Illinois Tollway.
Kemp said there’s only one real permanent construction zone on the tollways; that’s on Interstate 294 northbound near Balmoral Avenue for construction of a new exit ramp. Traffic also is shifted left on the southbound entrance ramp from Balmoral, according to a tollway news release.
All other construction is mostly complete, she said, and there won’t be any long-term closures or lane shifts in place. In the past, tollway travelers have dealt with many more construction zones.
“It’s good for the travelers,” Kemp said.
Illinois State Police usually sees an increase of cars on the road during the holidays, trooper Maria Navarro said. ISP works with local departments to conduct roadside safety checks, which will begin this evening and continue through the weekend.
Navarro advised drivers that police will look to ticket or arrest those committing the “fatal four” – drunken driving, speeding, distracted driving and not wearing seat belts.
“Those are the ones that cause fatalities,” she said.
Last year between Nov. 25-28, ISP dealt with 13 fatal crashes and 20 alcohol-related crashes. Troopers arrested 167 people for driving under the influence and issued 3,600 speeding tickets.
Drivers also should stay alert for changing weather conditions, DeKalb County Sheriff Roger Scott said. He reminded people that texting isn’t allowed, and cellphones shouldn’t be used in school or construction zones.
He advised those drinking to use a designated driver.
Scott said he does not anticipate deputies conducting any roadside safety checks and said the weekend usually is fairly quiet for the sheriff’s office.
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