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Check your wheels before you travel this holiday weekend
Tire Barn lead mechanic Wayne Booth places an alignment head on a car Tuesday before performing a front-end alignment. - photo by SARA GUEVARA
The countdown to the official Thanksgiving travel period is on.

According to the Georgia State Patrol, the majority of travelers will hit the highways by 6 p.m. today.

But before starting that holiday road trip, have the car checked out to make sure everything is running smoothly.

Bill Roper, owner of The Tire Barn in Gainesville, said there are three main things to check before embarking on a long road trip.

“The first thing would be to check your air pressure,” Roper said. “It makes your tires safer and reduces fuel consumption.”

Roper said if tires aren’t fully inflated, they create a drag on the road and make the car use more gasoline.

An oil change also is a good idea.

“Doing an oil change is helpful because it lets a technician look at all the fluids and systems under the hood,” Roper said.

And if rain were to pop up around Thanksgiving wherever you’re going, it is important to make sure windshield wiper blades are working properly.

“It’s been so dry the last couple years that a lot of people have wiper blades on their cars that might be one or two or three years old,” Roper said. “The rubber hardens and it won’t wipe the rain off the windshield; it’ll smear the rain rather than clear the windshield. It’s very hazardous as far as visibility is concerned.”

Once the vehicle is ready, it’ll be time to fill up for the trip. The good news there is that gasoline prices are expected to stay steady through the weekend.

Crude oil prices have gone down over the last week as the dollar has strengthened against the euro, according to AAA Auto Club South.

“What might be bad news for oil brokers is often good news for consumers,” said Gregg Laskoski, a spokesman for AAA Auto Club South. “This may be a holiday where retail fuel prices remain flat or decline, and that would extend a trend of recent years.”

In five of the last seven years, the national average price of gasoline has declined during Thanksgiving week, and one week it remained unchanged, according to AAA.

The statewide average price for regular unleaded gas was just over $2.50 a gallon Tuesday.

With so many extra cars on the roads, state patrol officers will step up traffic enforcement efforts through Monday to keep drivers safe, concentrating on seat belt and speed violations while watching for impaired drivers.

Despite the extra enforcement, the holiday weekend is still expected to be a dangerous one.

The Crash Reporting Unit at the Georgia Department of Transportation and the Georgia State Patrol estimates there will be 3,570 traffic crashes, 1,398 injuries and 16 traffic deaths.

Last year during a similar 102-hour holiday period, there were 3,815 traffic crashes that resulted in 1,457 injuries and 19 fatalities.

Last year, seven of the 19 people killed in traffic crashes during the Thanksgiving holiday period were not wearing seat belts and one of the victims died in an alcohol-related crash.