COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — This Thanksgiving weekend, AAA is predicting more than 2.2 million Ohioans will travel, nearing record numbers not seen since before the pandemic.
“Whether you’re driving or flying, if you’re traveling the day before Thanksgiving, it’s going to be extremely busy,” said Kimberly Schwind, director of public affairs for AAA Ohio Auto Club.
Meanwhile, Columbus Regional Airport Authority said more than 216,000 Ohioans are planning to fly as well, which is a record high.
“It was significant, we originally were going to go Wednesday, and moved it to Tuesday; among other things, we thought it would be less travel,” said Jon Norman, a Columbus resident.
Norman and his wife are flying to Washington D.C. this Thanksgiving, hoping to avoid the crowds by leaving early.
Driving continues to be the main method of transportation with 1.9 million Ohioans taking to the road.
“I prefer to drive anytime I travel; with longer distances, I like to fly, but even then, most of the time I drive,” said Joshua Eplin, a Columbus motorist.
AAA said the busiest travel times are predicted to be between 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, leading travel experts to recommend drivers avoid those peak hours and prepare their vehicles for the journey ahead.
“Make sure that you are checking your car, check those tires, check the fluid levels, check the headlights,” Schwind said. “Just make sure that your car is ready for that road trip so that you don’t end up stranded with a breakdown.”
This week’s travel has led other transportation experts, such as ODOT, to put out warnings on the highways, advising motorists to watch the road and stay alert.
“Our friends at the highway patrol, AAA with their tow trucks, all of those folks working alongside those roadsides depend on you as a driver to keep them safe by moving over and slowing down, so please do that, especially as we get into these busy travel seasons,” said Matt Bruning, press secretary for the Ohio Department of Transportation.
In 2021, Ohio State Highway Patrol said throughout Thanksgiving and the holiday weekend, they encountered 14 fatal crashes which resulted in 17 fatalities.
Troopers will be out in full force throughout the holiday weekend, enforcing traffic laws.
“Last year during the Thanksgiving reporting period, we arrested over 300 individuals for OVI,” said Sgt. Tyler Ross, spokesperson with the Ohio State Highway Patrol. “So just make sure you’re designated sober driver, use a ridesharing program if you can, and stay the night if that’s an option.”