Traffic safety officials in Utah on Monday urged patience and caution on state highways, with millions of Americans expected to hit the road this week for the Thanksgiving holiday despite what forecasters say could be record-high gas prices.
Holiday travelers traditionally make for unsafe drivers — they’re more often away from home on unfamiliar roads and are more likely to get drowsy or to have been drinking — and law enforcement agencies are expected to up their patrols with additional cars to handle increased numbers of incidents.
The American Automobile Association (AAA) announced it planned to rescue an estimated 1,200 Utah motorists during the five days that make up the Thanksgiving travel period.
“Families and friends are eager to spend time together this Thanksgiving, one of the busiest for travel in the past two decades,” said Paula Twidale, AAA’s senior vice president of travel. “Plan ahead and pack your patience, whether you’re driving or flying.”
AAA expected more than 54.6 million Americans to travel this holiday season, a 1.5% increase over last year. That would represent the third-busiest holiday travel week since AAA started tracking those numbers in 2000.
For motorists headed to the Wasatch Front, the Utah Department of Transportation warned to expect traffic delays along Interstate 15, with trips through Salt Lake and Utah counties expected to take about 20 minutes longer than usual, according to an advisory sent out Monday.
How much is gas for Thanksgiving?
On Thanksgiving Day, the national average for gas is projected to be $3.68 per gallon, about 20 cents higher than last year’s Thanksgiving, according to a recent report by GasBuddy.
That figure should easily beat the previous record high for Thanksgiving, which was $3.44 per gallon in 2012.
“It has been a dizzying year at the pump, with motorists likely feeling nauseous not from the eggnog, but from the roller coaster ride at the pump with record gasoline prices earlier this year, which have fallen significantly since mid-summer,” Patrick De Haan, head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy, said in an email.
In Utah, where gas typically costs more, the average was $3.98 on Monday, with Washington County at $4.28, the highest rate along the I-15 corridor, according to AAA’s gas price report.
As many Americans experienced this past year, inflation has been causing most things to cost more, including gas prices, which were driven up by oil supply shortages and low refining capacity from Russia’s invasion on Ukraine.
Prices have dropped since the summer, though. In June, the nationwide average price reached a record-breaking $5 per gallon.
Holiday highway safety
Traffic safety is always a major concern during Thanksgiving week, and the National Safety Council estimates that more than 500 Americans could die on U.S. roads this week. That would make Thanksgiving 2022 the deadliest for the country since 2007, according to the NSC’s “Injury Facts” reports.
The Utah Highway Patrol has recommended drivers stay patient, keep their seatbelts on and be aware of safety tips, with the UHP announcing that it would increase its seat belt enforcement during the busiest travel period from Wednesday to Sunday.
One note of good news was that weather forecasts call for unseasonably warm, dry conditions throughout the week all along the I-15 corridor from St. George to Salt Lake City. Things could start to get cloudier next week though, with a chance of rain and snow in some areas starting on Monday.
On the Web
Get driving tips and more information from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration at www.nhtsa.gov.
Find up-to-date information on Utah traffic at commuterlink.utah.gov.