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Gas prices up, busy roads expected for Thanksgiving
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Kelly Harrison of Gainesville refills her tank at the QuikTrip at the intersection of Limestone and Jesse Jewell parkways in the New Holland area of Gainesville on Tuesday, Nov. 21, 2017. - photo by David Barnes

Gas prices are at their highest level for the week of Thanksgiving since 2014. Even so, the number of Americans hitting the road for this year’s holiday will jump 20 percent, according to GasBuddy’s holiday travel survey.

AAA is expecting 45.5 million people to travel by car this holiday weekend, the highest number since 2005.

Drivers are also expected to travel farther, with GasBuddy’s survey finding a 4 percent increase in travelers driving 10 or more hours.

Given the extra traffic, the Georgia Department of Transportation is suspending all of its construction-related lane closures on interstate highways and primary state roads in Northeast Georgia from 6 a.m. Wednesday through 5 a.m. Monday, according to a news release.

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GasBuddy is projecting a national average of $2.53 per gallon for the holiday, up almost 40 cents from 2016. That would amount to $800 million more spent at the pump during Thanksgiving travel, according to GasBuddy.

“Drivers should pay close attention to prices to avoid overpaying,” said Patrick DeHaan, head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy, in a press release.

The average price as of Tuesday in Georgia was $2.37, and the cheapest gas available Tuesday in Gainesville was $2.27 per gallon.

While the $2.53 per gallon nationally is an uptick from the past two Thanksgivings, it’s well below the $2.79 average in 2014 and the record $3.44 average in 2012.

The 9-cent national uptick in gas prices within the past month is the highest since a 26-cent jump in the lead-up to Thanksgiving in 2007, according to GasBuddy.

State agencies are warning drivers to be careful. According to the Georgia Department of Transportation, there were 5,011 traffic crashes that resulted in 1,755 injuries and 20 deaths during the five-day Thanksgiving travel period in 2016, marking a 43 percent increase from the 14 traffic deaths during the same time period in 2015.

“The roadways will be busier than normal. With the added holiday stress and roadway distractions, it’s easy to forget about safety,” Gainesville Police Sgt. Kevin Holbrook wrote in a news release. “Please remember to wear your safety belts, watch your speed and use a designated driver.”

Holbrook said Gainesville Police will have extra patrols during the holiday season to keep an eye on aggressive driving, intoxicated drivers, speeders and those not wearing seat belts.

Authorities are asking residents to report suspicious activity and/or aggressive drivers to Hall County Central Communications at 770-534-5251, or by dialing 911.

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While the $2.53 per gallon nationally is a gas price uptick from the past two Thanksgivings, it’s well below the $2.79 average in 2014 and the record $3.44 average in 2012. - photo by David Barnes