- Travelers can usually expect an uptick in traffic during Thanksgiving, but there are some factors this year that could add to the congestion.
- INRIX found that the best time to take off is after 9 p.m. on Wednesday and before 11 a.m. on Thursday.
- Below are some of the worst congestion times within U.S. traffic corridors the day before Thanksgiving.
AAA projects nearly 4 million more people will hit the roads this Thanksgiving compared with last year, which means travelers should be prepared to face an uptick in traffic.
Experts predict that more Americans will drive because of the holiday weekend and increased vaccine rates. A November AAA report predicts automobile travel volumes will fall within 3% of pre-pandemic levels, with 48.3 million people traveling by car for Thanksgiving.
There are two big holidays that drive. … Thanksgiving is one of them,” said Bob Pishue, an analyst with transportation analytics company INRIX. “Traffic won’t get as bad in 2019 as it did in 2019, but traffic will be less. However, roads are more congested this year than last.
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INRIX advises travelers to leave early
INRIX found traffic delays nationwide are expected to be about 40% higher than normal over Thanksgiving.
There are many ways around road congestion. Pishue said morning departures tend to be ideal, especially now that there are fewer people commuting to work or school in the pandemic.
INRIX discovered that Wednesday at 9 PM is the ideal time for taking off, as well as Thursday and Friday at 11 AM and Saturday at noon.
“Leaving in the morning is definitely the best bet,” he said. He said that even on a regular day, traffic at midday or afternoon is quite heavy. This is as true in many places as it is before the COVID.
What is the reason traffic keeps getting worse?
It is not unusual for travelers to notice an increase in traffic around major holidays, such as Thanksgiving. However there may be other factors which could cause congestion.
The potential for a disruptive storm to hit the central and southern U.S. next week. It could bring heavy snow, rain, and wind.
This time of year, car accidents pose another problem. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration warns that drivers have been making “risky decisions” since the pandemic began, including driving impaired or without a seat belt.
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The agency estimates 20,160 people died in motor vehicle crashes in the first half of the year, up 18% over 2020 and the largest number of projected fatalities in that time frame since 2006.
The NHTSA has also found an uptick in impaired drivers during the holidays. Between 2015 and 2019, almost 800 people were involved in fatal crashes with drunk drivers during Thanksgiving weekend.
“If we thought it was a problem before COVID, it’s definitely a problem now,” Pishue said. We hope for fewer road accident and fatalities, but it is a problem given the way things are during COVID.
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These are some of the most dangerous cities for Thanksgiving traffic.
Traffic is not all created equally. Here are some of the worst congestion times within U.S. traffic corridors on Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving.
► AtlantaInterstate 85 South, Clairmont Road to Martin Luther King Jr. Drive will be 3420% higher than normal between 1:30-3:30 p.m.
► BostonInterstate 93 North between Quincy Market and Massachusetts Route 28 will be at 240% higher than normal between 1 & 3 p.m.
► Chicago– Interstate 290 West, Morgan Street to Wolfe Road, is predicted to have 329% more traffic than normal between 2:45 and 4:45 p.m.
► DetroitInterstate 95 West: From 6 Mile Road, Walled Lake to Walled Lake should be 211% more than the normal range between 2 and 4.
► Houston– Interstate 10 West, from Sjolander Road towards Texas State Highway 330, is forecast to be 3444% higher than normal between 3:15 and 5:15 p.m.
► Los AngelesInterstate 5 South, from Colorado Street to Florence Avenue, is forecast to have 385% more than normal between 3:45 PM and 5:45 PM.
► New YorkInterstate 495 East, Borden Avenue to Little Neck Parkway will be at 482% higher than normal between 2:30 and 4:30 p.m.
► San FranciscoInterstate 80 East between Interstate 580 and San Pablo Dam Road should be 278% more than the normal range from 4-6 p.m.
► SeattleInterstate 5 South, Washington State Route 18 to Washington State Route 7, is likely to see 257% more traffic than normal between 4 and 6 p.m.
► Washington, D.C.Interstate 95 South between Interstate 395 and Virginia State Route 123 will be 23% higher than the normal range from 2-4 p.m.
Follow Bailey Schulz, USA TODAY’s reporter on Twitter @bailey_schulz.