WASHINGTON - For the fourth year in a row, the number of holiday travelers has increased and a shift in driving trends means the Thanksgiving rush is already here.
"Traditionally, the Wednesday before Thanksgiving was the heaviest rush hour of the year. People have realized that doesn't work too well, so we've seen a trend for people to get away as soon as they can conveniently do so," says WTOP Traffic Reporter Bob Marbourg.
Nationwide, AAA predicts more than 43 million people will travel at least 50 miles for the Thanksgiving weekend. And while some plan to take planes or trains to their destinations, they'll still be plugging up traffic while they try to get to airports and train stations on time.
In the Washington metro region, 977,600 people will hit the road, traveling more than 50 miles, according to AAA Mid-Atlantic. That's a 1.3 percent increase from last year. When other modes of travel are factored in, the number is 1,074,500, also up 1.3 percent from last year.
"The getaway process now takes place gradually as people have learned to time shift themselves out of what they expect to be the most congested part of the getaway," says Marbourg.
But, "if everybody collectively makes the same choice, you can have rush hour at a time when you weren't expecting it."
Ultimately, drivers should be flexible because delays may be unavoidable, no matter which day they leave.
WTOP Traffic will not be taking off for the holidays. Drivers can report traffic problems by calling 877-222-1035 or by using #1035 on Verizon and AT&T cellphones. Before getting on the road, drivers also can check traffic cameras and find cheap gas.
(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)