AAA: Wednesday Busiest Highway Travel Day of the Year

Auto insurer AAA estimates that 43.4 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more this holiday season. Of those travelers, 90 percent will be traveling by car.

Nearly 40 percent of those traveling Americans are expected to leave Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving. That despite storms in various parts of the U.S., including a large storm system that is expected to hit the Northeast.

There will be 1.5 percent fewer travelers on the roadways compared to last year’s estimates, according to AAA. The insurer and roadside service company blames the decline on rising gas prices and concern about economic growth.

“The primary focus of Thanksgiving, more so than any other holiday, is to gather with friends, family and loved ones and celebrate with each other,” AAA Chief Operating Officer Marshall Donley said in a statement.

“Travelers attempting to carve out a travel budget will be happy to know that Thanksgiving will be the least expensive holiday of the year,” Donley added.

Holiday travel spending is also expected to drop compared to last year. AAA expects travelers to spend, on average, $465, compared to $498 in 2012.

Part of the estimated decline in spending is due to lower gas prices, according to Donley.

“For those traveling the good news is motorists will receive a holiday bonus in the form of lower gas prices which are at their lowest levels for the holiday since 2010,” Donley said.

Progressive Says Claims Spike on Evening of ‘Black Wednesday’

All those extra cars on the road makes for extra accidents, according to data released by Progressive. The car insurance company showed it usually sees a spike in car insurance claims later on in the day before Thanksgiving, which the insurer refers to as “Black Wednesday.”

The insurer looked at claims data for the hours between 8 p.m. on Black Wednesday 2012 and 3 a.m. the next day. It then compared that data to other Wednesdays around the same period.

The insurer found the following increases in claims:

Claim type Increase on
Black Wednesday
Parking and rear-end accidents +24%
Collision claims +17%
Property damage claims +14%

Dangerous Roads in Florida, Arkansas and New England

The travel season comes as storm systems have caused at least 11 roadway deaths since Monday. Officials in Florida, Arkansas, Tennessee and Kentucky are warning motorists to be mindful of wet roads, rains and even the possibility of tornadoes.

Florida officials issued general warnings over radio stations, urging motorists to avoid driving into storms if possible. It’s suspected that at least one tornado touched down on the Gulf Coast, and warnings have been extended into Wednesday.

The same storm system that is prompting tornado warnings in Florida is expected to cause major disruptions in the Northeast by the end of the week. Snow and driving winds are expected to hit Philadelphia and New York.

Officials in the Northeast are warning motorists to drive the speed limit and keep their windshield clear in the dangerous conditions. Road crews will also be on standby in New Jersey, Connecticut and New York to clear debris that comes into the roadways, according to local reports.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo urged motorists to stay alert and away from danger.

“Recognizing that the harsh weather as well as the increased use of roadways has the potential to cause serious inconvenience for motorists,” Cuomo added in a statement, “I have directed the state’s transportation agencies to take all necessary preparations to be ready to clear roadways as quickly as possible.”

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