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Three key tips if you’re traveling for Thanksgiving

Traffic on I-395 looking south as the sun sets on Thanksgiving Eve in 2019 (Staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Thanksgiving week is here and, based on past polls, that means about 45% of you are traveling.

Our 2015 morning poll on the topic found that most local Thanksgiving travelers — about 75% — will do so by car, while 20% will travel by plane.

With that in mind, we have three key tips for Thanksgiving road and air travelers.

1. If driving, leave earlier or later in the day

Expect plenty of traffic if you’re planning to drive to your destination on Wednesday, but you can avoid some of it by leaving earlier in the morning or later at night. The same applies for those driving back on Saturday or Sunday.

“Based on the traffic data, periods of heavy congestion are most likely to occur from mid-morning to evening on Wednesday, Nov. 23, afternoon on Saturday, Nov. 26, and all day on Sunday, Nov. 27,” said a VDOT press release last week.

Based on a VDOT map of past travel trends, there is likely to be a fair amount of traffic in and out of Northern Virginia on Tuesday as well, particularly around the evening rush hour.

VDOT will be suspending most work zones and lane closures from Nov. 23-28, but that will only marginally ease the traffic onslaught.

2. Reserve your airport parking now

If you’re flying out of Reagan National Airport and planning to drive there, parking is currently widely available in all three lots.

However, you’re unlikely to find much — if any — parking by the time Wednesday rolls around. Fortunately, as of publication, online reservations were still available for Terminal 2 and economy parking.

DCA parking availability as of Nov. 21, 2022

Meanwhile, if you’re flying out of Dulles International Airport, don’t forget that the new Silver Line extension to Dulles is now open.

3. Drive carefully (and if you don’t, State Police might stop you)

With so many people on the roads, sometimes after having a few drinks, Thanksgiving weekend is sadly a time of many serious crashes nationwide.

That’s why authorities regularly encourage drivers to be extra careful this time of year.

Virginia State Police announced this morning that it would be conducting extra patrols and enforcement for Thanksgiving. More from a press release, below.

For many Virginians, gathering with family and friends is the true meaning for Thanksgiving. Some will even travel long distances to share in these wonderful family moments. Just as important as it is to make sure those pies and casseroles make it to the dinner table safely, motorists need to make their own safety a priority, as well. Virginia State Police is reminding all drivers and passengers of all ages to buckle up this holiday weekend. Preliminary data show that 54% of those who have died in traffic crashes this year were not wearing a seatbelt or safety restraint.*

“The fact that more than half of those who have lost their lives in traffic crashes this year were not wearing a seatbelt is a tragic and inexcusable reality for Virginia,” said Colonel Gary T. Settle, Virginia State Police Superintendent. “Your family wants you to arrive safely and clicking a seatbelt can help that happen. Virginia State Police and your loved ones want you to arrive at your destination safely – ditch distractions, comply with posted speed limits, never drive buzzed or drunk, and, again, always buckle up.”

To further prevent traffic deaths and injuries during the Thanksgiving holiday, the Virginia State Police will once again be participating in Operation C.A.R.E. – Crash Awareness and Reduction Effort. As part of the state-sponsored, national program, state police will be increasing its visibility and traffic enforcement efforts during the five-day statistical counting period that begins at 12:01 a.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2022, and concludes at midnight Sunday, Nov. 27, 2022.

The 2021 Thanksgiving Operation C.A.R.E. initiative resulted in troopers citing 5,127 speeders and 1,565 reckless drivers statewide. Virginia troopers charged 65 drivers for driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol and/or drugs, and cited 477 drivers for failing to buckle up themselves and/or juvenile passengers.

There were five traffic fatalities during the 2021 five-day Thanksgiving statistical counting period and 12 traffic fatalities during the same period in 2020.

This year, the Thanksgiving Holiday C.A.R.E. initiative falls within the annual “Click It or Ticket” campaign. This enforcement and educational initiative aims to further emphasize the lifesaving value of seat belts for every person in a vehicle.

With increased patrols, Virginia State Police also reminds drivers of Virginia’s “Move Over” law, which requires motorists to move over when approaching an emergency vehicle stopped alongside the road. If unable to move over, drivers are required to cautiously pass the emergency vehicle. The law also applies to workers in vehicles equipped with amber lights.

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