SANTA MARIA, Calif. – With Thanksgiving now just a few days away, the busy holiday travel period is beginning to ramp up, which will bring extra traffic to local roadways over the next several days.
According to the Auto Club of Southern California, travel volume in Southern California will break a record for the second year in a row.
Projections for the region, which includes the Tri-Counties area of San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara and Ventura counties, show millions of Southern Californians will take a trip over the next several days, representing a 3% increase from last year’s number of record travelers.
"Our official travel forecast starts this Wednesday," said Doug Shupe, Auto Club of Southern California Corporate Communications Manager. "During that five day period from Wednesday through Sunday of this week, the Auto Club is projecting 4.6 million Southern Californians will be taking a trip of 50 miles or more away from home. The vast majority of them, 3.9 million, will go by automobile, about 566,000 will fly somewhere. About 120,000 will take another mode of transportation, like a train, a bus or even a cruise for this Thanksgiving."
AAA is also forecasting many travelers in Southern California will make the short trip to this area and visit the Central Coast over the next few days.
"According to a survey of our Auto Club travel advisors, the California Central Coast area is in the top five destinations for Southern California this Thanksgiving," said Shupe. "Number one is Las Vegas, followed by San Diego, then comes the Santa Barbara area, Central Coast area number three, Grand Canyon will be number four, and then a cruise or resort stay in Mexico, will round out the top five, so even if you are staying close and staying home this Thanksgiving, you'll likely see a lot more travelers or visitors in town because the California Central Coast is one of the top five destinations for Southern California this Thanksgiving."
The popularity of the Central Coast means locals can expect many more vehicles in the area all week along, causing local freeways, highways and roadways to increase with traffic.
"Typically what we see for these holidays is travel by automobile is the number one mode of transportation for people by a long shot," said Shupe. "The reason for that is it's just the most convenient for most people. They can leave when they want to leave, they can return when they want to leave, but it's also the most economical for families. You know, you can lock the kids in the car and take that road trip for a lot less money than if you were to actually purchase airplane tickets for everyone, and also this year, drivers will see about a .30 to .40 cent saving per gallon of gasoline compared to last year at this time."
Nationally, AAA projects 55.4 million will travel over the Thanksgiving holiday, including a record-setting 7.5 million from California.
On Thursday, the California Highway Patrol will begin its maximum enforcement period, which will run through Sunday.
"All available officers will be out on the road for the holiday traffic," said Santa Maria CHP Officer Josh Thomas. "During the maximum enforcement period, all available officers in the areas will be working through that maximum enforcement period. We expect more people to be traveling, so you'll see more officers out there on the highway."
Thomas added the extra traffic on the roadways means people should be patient while driving and plan accordingly.
"The biggest message I have to people is get an early start, leave a little bit earlier," said Thomas. "Give yourself time to get to your destination. And that way, if you do encounter a traffic collision or a road closure, you can still get to your destination on time. Our primary focus is to get you to your destination safely. If you see us out there, please slow down, Move over if possible. Have a safe trip to your destination and have a happy Thanksgiving."