Thanksgiving worst time for vehicle accidents
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Turkey, trimmings, football, camaraderie -- and crashes? Unfortunately, they are a big part of the Thanksgiving holiday, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.
With millions preparing to travel in the coming days, PennDOT warned that Thanksgiving week is the worst time of year for vehicle accidents.
There were 4,235 crashes and 49 deaths in the state last year during the Thanksgiving travel time, which includes the weekends before and after the holiday. The number of fatalities was down from 2010, when 55 died in crashes. During Christmas and New Year's travel, there were 1,994 crashes and 19 deaths.
PennDOT and police have begun Operation Safe Holiday, a campaign of seat belt enforcement, sobriety checkpoints and roving patrols that will continue through New Year's Day.
Those whose travels keep them in Western Pennsylvania will have weather that is nearly as sweet as pecan pie on Thanksgiving Day, with a high nearing 60. But rain is possible Friday followed by clear but much colder weather over the weekend.
The Pennsylvania Turnpike will have its heaviest travel of the year today through Sunday, with more than 2.6 million vehicles expected to use the toll road.
"With such high volumes of traffic, drivers need to keep their eyes on the road, be aware of roadway conditions and drive accordingly," acting turnpike CEO Craig Shuey said.
All turnpike lanes were cleared of construction as of 3 p.m. Tuesday and will stay that way until 6 a.m. Monday.
The turnpike is expecting the heaviest volume from 3 to 8 p.m. Wednesday and noon to 8 p.m. Sunday, when slowdowns and stoppages are possible.
The turnpike's free smartphone app, TripTalk, provides audio alerts to drivers about any traffic issues on their route. Real-time information is also available at www.paturnpike.com or 1-866-976-TRIP (8747).
Turnpike state police Troop T will be monitoring traffic for compliance with seat belt laws.
Two service plazas remain closed for reconstruction: South Midway for eastbound motorists just east of Bedford (Exit 146) and Highspire for eastbound motorists about one mile east of Harrisburg East (Exit 247).
Port Authority will operate on its holiday schedule on Thanksgiving. The customer service phone line will be staffed 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and the Downtown Service Center will be closed. Regular service will operate Friday.
The authority expects two weekend events to detour some bus routes: the annual Turkey Trot footrace on Thanksgiving morning in Downtown and on the North Shore, and Saturday's My Macy's Holiday Parade Downtown. Details on the detours are posted at www.portauthority.org.
In its traditional holiday travel forecast, AAA said 43.6 million Americans will make trips 50 miles or more from home during the holiday weekend.
That is up nearly 1 percent from last year and would be the fourth consecutive year of travel growth since the 25 percent drop that occurred in 2008 after the economy collapsed.
It said 90 percent of those traveling will do so by car, and will pay $3.25 to $3.40 per gallon for gasoline, similar to last year's national average of $3.32, which was the highest ever on Thanksgiving.
In Western Pennsylvania, however, gasoline prices are much higher, with the average for regular unleaded this week at nearly $3.63, 22 cents above the national average and 23 cents more than the average here a year ago, AAA reported.
First Published November 21, 2012 12:00 am