As the holiday season kicks into full swing, millions of people across the nation will take to road and sky this week, visiting loved ones and celebrating Thanksgiving festivities.
But just what can the people of North Georgia expect from the upcoming holiday week?
Nearly 50,000 additional Georgia travelers will be hitting the road for the Thanksgiving weekend, up more than 3.5 percent from last year, according to AAA.
“This is the most traveled holiday of the year, and as usual, there is an emphasis on road trips,” AAA President and CEO Joseph J. Richardson Jr. said in a news release. He cautioned travelers to be patient with increased traffic conditions and to limit distractions while on the road.
The AAA attributes this increase in holiday travelers to the improving economy and steadily dropping gas prices.
“Gas prices are now on a similar course as last year, due in large part to lower oil prices,” said AAA spokesman Mark Jenkins.
Jenkins stated in a separate release that “it appears the southeastern states that took a hit from the Colonial Pipeline outage a couple weeks ago have fully recovered since the restart. Gas prices should move another nickel lower this week, unless there are unexpected disruptions in supply or spikes in oil prices.”
AAA sources report that average Georgia gas prices have fallen steadily over the last month, and the average was down to $2.10 as of Tuesday night, according to gasbuddy.com.
For more information on gas prices in the area, visit gainesvilletimes.com/gasbuddy.
ROAD CLOSURES SUSPENDED
Due to projected holiday congestion, the Georgia Department of Transportation announced last week it will limit construction-related lane closures.
Starting today and lasting until late Sunday, lane closures along interstate highways, heavily traveled state routes and roadways near major shopping areas will be suspended.
“We expect heavy traffic as people hit the road to visit loved ones or when they take the family to Black Friday sales,” said Georgia DOT state construction engineer John D. Hancock. “We want to make this a happy Thanksgiving, so we are limiting construction and associated lane closures for easier and safer travel.”
He went on to caution drivers that though the lane closure suspension will remain in effect through the weekend, some long-term construction, emergency or maintenance lane closures may remain in effect.
Hancock also warned roadway fatalities increase during the holidays.
“We typically see an increase in roadway fatalities during heavy travel holidays, and with traffic fatalities up again this year, drivers should slow down, drive alert and take every precaution to protect themselves and their passengers,” Hancock said.
Full details on roadwork and closures can be found at http://www.dot.ga.gov.
With the uptick in holiday travelers and Black Friday shoppers, Gainesville residents can expect to see more police on the roads and in shopping areas throughout the holiday season.
According to Gainesville Police Department Sgt. Kevin Holbrook, the department will be increasing its community presence during the holiday season, patrolling for speeding and aggressive or intoxicated drivers. From Nov. 17 to Dec. 1, the Gainesville Police Department is participating in Operation Click It or Ticket and Operation Zero Tolerance, both operations searching out dangerous and impaired drivers.
Holbrook also said holiday shoppers need to remain mindful of their surroundings and personal belongings while shopping, explaining that the confusion from such large numbers of shoppers makes Black Friday a prime time for thieves and criminals.
“Just like my wife is going to be out there looking for the best deal, they are gonna be out there too,” said Holbrook. “We want the criminals to know that they are not welcome, and we are going to be out there in uniforms and squad cars, and plain clothes and unmarked cars looking for them.”
He said the best way to protect yourself from being targeted is by being mindful of your surroundings and avoiding situations that advertise the cash or merchandise you have.
To report suspicious activities or aggressive drivers, contact Hall County Central Communications at 770 534-5251, or by dialing 911.