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Thanksgiving Travel: Selecting the Best Time to Drive

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The number of travelers hitting the road for Thanksgiving has been rising steadily since 2008 when the economy forced many people to simplify.

39.1 million Americans are expected to travel by car 50 miles or more this year, according to AAA. That’s up from 38.9 million last year.

Trying to drive to your destination on Thursday afternoon, however, can be a recipe for aggravation. Last year on Thanksgiving Day, westbound Interstate 80 traffic between Sacramento and the Bay Area slowed to a crawl because of a heavy volume of cars. It took nearly two hours to travel from Sacramento to Vallejo, a drive that normally takes only one hour.

“That’s why we always recommend you try to get out a day before the actual Thanksgiving,” said Caltrans spokesman Dennis Keaton during a Tuesday afternoon conversation with FOX40.

Keaton also reminds us that the evening commute on Wednesday is likely to start earlier than usual.

And it’s good to keep in mind that after Thanksgiving dinner, you may be in the company of tired, and possibly drunk people, if you try to drive home.

“We prefer that, if it’s possible, stay the night,” Keaton advised. “Be able to get some rest. That way it’s safer for you to drive well-rested during the daytime.”

Keaton also points out that there are some freeway construction projects still in progress around the state.  Work crews will have the holiday off, but travelers should still be on the lookout for narrowed lanes and construction signs and equipment.

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