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More Ohio Drivers Expected On Roadways Over Thanksgiving

Cars in traffic at night
Montgomery County, Pennsylvania Planning Commission
Flickr Creative Commons
Thanksgiving weekend traffic is expected to be heavier in Ohio this year due to low gas prices.

Close to two million Ohioans will hit the road for Thanksgiving to visit family and friends. That's more than any Thanksgiving since 2007.

The uptick in traffic is due to a drop in gas prices. For more on the busy holiday travel season, WOSU's Debbie Holmes spoke with AAA spokeswoman Kimberly Schwind.

The below transcript is an automated transcript of the above conversation. Please excuse minor typos and errors.

Debbie Holmes: The holiday travel season is now underway. Thousands of Ohioans will hit the road for Thanksgiving to visit family and friends. With me to talk about what that looks like this year is AAA spokeswoman Kimberly Schwind. More people are expected on the roads and this year gas prices are much cheaper. It's below $2 a gallon here in central Ohio.

Kimberly Schwind: You know that's exactly right. We continue to see gas prices well below where they were last year. Last year we actually had prices average here in Ohio at about $2.82 a gallon during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. So well below that, and you know that's really been giving people more money in their pockets. Enable them to spend money on things like travel.

So we are going to see 1.9 million Ohioans traveling this weekend starting today. Eighty nine percent of the travel will take place by car, so its going to be very busy on the roadways. We're actually expecting the highest Thanksgiving travel volume since 2007.

DH: And so that that would be 1.9 million people?

KS: Yeah, we're expecting 46.9 million Americans including more than 1.9 million Ohioans to travel this weekend. There is going to be a lot of people out especially on the roadways. Eighty nine percent of the travel is going to take place on the road. It is going to be the highest holiday Thanksgiving travel volume since 2007.

DH: So how far are people going to travel by then?

KS: You know this really is just 50 miles or more from home. So we don't have any data on exactly how far people are going, but what we tend to find here in Ohio is that people travel within the regional borders and most of their trips are by car so four to six hours. Most people are going to be traveling to family and friends houses.

We do have some people of course that are going to be traveling farther. We do expect a number of people to be flying. Air travel is in line with where it was last year just up .1 percent nationally and just down .3 percent in Ohio. So 3.61 million Americans, including nearly a 145,000 Ohioans, are going to be flying this holidays.

Thanksgiving is notoriously very busy in the airport especially because most of the travel is packed into just a couple of days. So if you are going to the airport we do recommend that if you're flying domestically that you give yourself two to three hours before your flight. If you are flying internationally give yourself three-and-a half to five hours, especially coming back we're going to see with everything that's been happening in the last couple of weeks very vigilant security.

DH: Do you think that's going to affect the number of people who want to go away for the holidays the fact that you know this terrorism has been striking overseas?

KS: People that have booked their flights, they've already booked and made their plans. We just make sure that they know that it's going to take longer to get through the security line. So really we haven't noticed any major cancellations or changes of plans yet.

DH: How much do gas prices have to drop then to make a difference then in the number of travelers that that will see?

KS: So you know what we've really been seeing is when gas was high above $3 gallon for several years, last year around this time actually at the end of October it dropped below that $3 a gallon mark, and that really helped to spur more people to travel because they were saving more money at the pump. But we've kind of become a little bit desensitized to the lower gas prices. 

Debbie Holmes has worked at WOSU News since 2009. She has hosted All Things Considered, since May 2021. Prior to that she was the host of Morning Edition and a reporter.