Heading out to Grandma’s for a home-cooked meal this Thanksgiving? Two words: leave early. This Thanksgiving, AAA says to expect more of everything this year over last year. Expect heavier traffic and higher gas prices when you hit the road. Gas rates are expected to be the highest in four years, with a national average of $2.79 as of November 1, 31-cents more than a year ago. And as for traffic:
“AAA projects 54.3 million Americans will journey 50 miles or more away from home this Thanksgiving, a 4.8 percent increase over last year. The 2018 holiday weekend will see the highest Thanksgiving travel volume in more than a dozen years (since 2005), with 2.5 million more people taking to the nation’s roads, skies, rails and waterways compared with last year. For the 48.5 million Americans planning a Thanksgiving road trip, INRIX, a global mobility analytics company, predicts travel times in the most congested cities in the U.S. could be as much as four times longer than a normal trip.”
The AAA Thanksgiving press release offers a chart with the worst time to hit the road in America’s largest cities and the worst travel times to the nation’s busiest airports. For Boston, they suggest that the worst time to hit the road is between 4 to 6 PM, noting that I-495 S from exits 41 to 33 will be the most congested. All in all, they say to expect a 3.5x delay multiplier.
As for factoring in weather conditions while you travel, AccuWeather says the northeast should expect bouts of snow and slick travel ahead of a frigid Thanksgiving. See maps for when and where the wintry mix is expected.
For another cool planning tool, Google’s Mapping Thanksgiving 2018 is an interactive feature that uses data from 2017 to offer insight into the places people visit around the holidays, when to visit them, and the best times to get on (or stay off) the road. You can search by state, view traffic patterns in key metropolitan areas and use an interactive feature to find out the best time to start your road travel.
Two New England cities make the top 10 list of the most traffic congested cities in North America — Bridgeport at #7 and Boston at #10. But even when you aren’t in commuter traffic, delays can happen: You’re sailing along on the highway when you hit a big traffic jam. A few minutes later it clears and there is no apparent view as to why it happened. This infographic sheds light on some of the most common theories on why this happens. (Click for a larger image)
If you are risk averse, avoid driving on Saturdays in August. According to a recent article in Forbes, those are the most dangerous times to drive. The article is accompanied by a short slide show filled with interesting accident and fatality statistics.
But as Mark Twain was fond of saying, “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.” In reader comments about the article, several people point out that it is not the sheer number of fatalities that is significant but the relative risk. If numbers alone were significant, then motorcycles would be the safest means of transportation since the sheer number of fatalities is low in comparison to autos. As the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety notes: “Risk is characterized by the bad outcomes for a given level of exposure.” To determine the risk, it would be more significant to determine the fatality rate in relation to the number of cars on the road at a given time or in relation to the number of miles driven.
That being said, the Forbes article sheds light on an important topic and notes one indisputable and sobering fact: auto accidents kill upwards of 40,000 people each year or about 110 per day, far too many by any yardstick one might care to use. And most accidents and related injuries are attributable to human error: distractions, speeding, drunk driving, failure to use a seat belt, driving too fast for the weather conditions, and failure to keep a safe stopping distance from other vehicles. John Tesh has collected some interesting data points on relative driving risks from Traffic Stats analysis:
- A cautious 82-year-old woman is more likely to die in a car crash than a risk-taking 16 year old boy. Why? Because the 82 year old is more fragile
- The second most likely group to die in a car accident, after little old ladies, young male drivers between the ages of 16 and 23. Their fatality rate is 4 times higher than average
- Drivers in New England are the safest. They get in the fewest crashes of any region
- The safest passenger in the car? A baby or toddler secured in a car seat during morning rush hour traffic
- The safest vehicle is a school bus
- The most dangerous vehicle is a motorcycle
- The safest driving day is Wednesday. There are the fewest crashes and fatalities
- Saturdays are the deadliest days on the road
- The safest driving month: February
- The deadliest month: October
- And the drivers with the lowest risk of death are adults between 40 and 50 years old