‘Know before you go’

Arkansas drivers reminded to use IDriveArkansas.com for Thanksgiving travel information

By Ralph Hardin ralphhardin@gmail.com

Over the next several days, families in Crittenden County will be hitting the road for the holiday. The Arkansas State Highway and Transportation Department (AHTD) reminds drivers to “know before you go” and visit IDriveArkansas.com before traveling this Thanksgiving. “Extensive highway improvements continue in the state,” cautions Danny Straessle, Public Information Officer for the Arkansas State Highway and Transportation Department. “With those improvements come work zones. To aid in your holiday travel, AHTD has been working hard to open as many lanes as possible.” Still, work continues and travelers will likely face work zones and possible delays due to increased traffic volume. According to the American Automobile Association (AAA), more than 46 million travelers are expected to hit the nation’s highways and travel 50 miles or more during the Thanksgiving weekend. The AAA expects this holiday weekend to see the busiest activity since 2007 and an overall increase compared to 2014. Two major national travel routes, I-40 and I-55 run through Arkansas and intersect in Crittenden County. To help motorists find ways around accidents and work zone backups on Interstates, AHTD has an Alternate Routes feature at IDriveArkansas.com. It displays linkages between the Interstate corridors and secondary routes that motorists may consider when travel is delayed. We also provide updated information on Twitter@AHTD. The closest major slow-down spot to Crittenden County is on I-40, between Brinkley and Carlisle. Traffic is down to one lane for a mile-long stretch of the highway on both sides. In Saline County, near Benton, a four-mile stretch of I-30 is down to one lane near Benton on the westbound side, and the entirety of I-530 near White Hall in Jefferson County is down to one lane in both directions. Families hitting the road for Thanksgiving will have at least one thing to be extra thankful for this year — the cheapest gasoline prices at Thanksgiving in almost a decade. The low prices are showing up just in time for the millions of motorists that are traveling this year, saving an anticipated $1.5 billion over the course of the holiday weekend. Analysts with GasBuddy.com project that by Thanksgiving Day the national average will be $1.99 per gallon, around 80 cents per gallon cheaper than last year and $1.29 per gallon cheaper than 2013. As prices at the pump have plunged, the number of states seeing average prices under $2 per gallon has more than tripled in the last two weeks, rising to 19 states, with nearly 60 percent of all U.S. gas stations now selling below $2 per gallon. Lower gas prices make it easier for families to travel. A survey of more than 100,000 Americans conducted by GasBuddy found that more people will be making a road trip this year. According to the survey, 25 percent of travelers say their travel will begin on Thanksgiving Day, while nearly 30 percent say travel begins the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. Another 23 percent say they’ll hit the road 2 to 3 days ahead. That’s an 11 percent decrease in the number of people who say they’re heading out on Thanksgiving Day. Factoring in the requisite Black Friday shopping trips and the inevitible drive home, motorists will be on the road throughout the weekend. “With gas prices plunging under $2 just in time for Thanksgiving Day, it’s a perfect reminder — some folks automatically expect gas prices to rise in advance of a major travel holiday, that’s become a popular misconception and this holiday exemplifies the point. November gas prices have slid significantly lower and holiday travelers will certainly be the beneficiaries,” said Patrick DeHaan, a senior petroleum analyst with GasBuddy. “It’s a trend we expect will continue through the end of 2015, so if you like the prices you see on Thanksgiving, you’ll be delighted when Christmas arrives.” DeHaan said gas prices might be low but there are also additional ways to save even more while on the road: • Be aware crossing state lines. Over 67 percent of travelers will be driving over 200 miles for Thanksgiving, with 36 percent saying they will be traveling over 500 miles. This means it is very likely that drivers will be traveling through different states. Additional savings can be found if alert motorists shop for the lowest prices near state lines, where substantial variety in gasoline prices occurs due to gas tax differences. • Don’t stop at the first gas station you see. Cheaper prices mean more price variations between stations. Station owners know that consumers often buy gas out of convenience so be sure to shop around. Motorists who use the GasBuddy price-comparison app said they save at least 6-9 cents per gallon. • Of course, an ounce of prevention always helps too. Check the air pressure in your tires and remember the spare tire too. GasBuddy wishes a happy and safe Thanksgiving to all! • Paper not plastic. Save money on gasoline as more stations offer lower prices to cash paying customers. Using cash can lead to savings of 5-15 cents per gallon. • Delay buying gasoline. The more you wait, the more you save. GasBuddy analysts expect gasoline prices to keep moving downward through Thanksgiving Day weekend, so motorists can save on every gallon waiting for gas stations to drop prices further.

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