Three key tips if you’re traveling for Thanksgiving

Traffic on I-395 southbound at sunset on the eve of Thanksgiving in 2019 (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Thanksgiving week has arrived and, based on past pollsthis means that around 45% of you travel.

Our 2015 morning poll on the subject found that most local Thanksgiving travelers — about 75% — will do so by car, while 20% will travel by air.

With that in mind, we have three key tips for Thanksgiving road and air travelers.

1. If you are driving, leave earlier or later in the day

Expect a lot of traffic if you plan to drive to your destination on Wednesday, but you can avoid some of it by leaving earlier in the morning or later in the evening. The same goes for those who return on Saturday or Sunday.

“Based on traffic data, periods of heavy congestion are most likely to occur from mid-morning until evening on Wednesday, November 23, afternoon on Saturday, November 26, and all day on Sunday, November 27” , said a VDOT press release Last week.

Based on a VDOT map of past travel trendsthere will likely be a lot of traffic to and from Northern Virginia on Tuesday as well, especially around the evening rush hour.

The VDOT will suspend most work zones and lane closures from Nov. 23-28, but this will only slightly ease the onslaught of traffic.

2. Book your airport parking now

If you are departing from Reagan National Airport and planning to drive there, parking is currently widely available in the three lots.

However, you’re unlikely to find much, if any, parking by the time Wednesday rolls around. Fortunately, as of publication, online reservations were always available for Terminal 2 and economy parking.

Availability of DCA parking as of November 21, 2022

In the meantime, if you are departing from Dulles International Airport, remember that the new Silver Line extension to Dulles is now open.

3. Drive carefully (and if you don’t, state police might pull you over)

With so many people on the roads, sometimes after a few drinks, Thanksgiving weekend is unfortunately a time of numerous serious accidents throughout the country.

This is why the authorities regularly encourage drivers to be extra careful at this time of year.

Virginia State Police announced this morning that they will be conducting additional Thanksgiving patrols and enforcement. More of a press release, below.

For many Virginians, getting together with family and friends is the true meaning of Thanksgiving. Some will even travel long distances to share these wonderful family moments. As important as it is to make sure those pies and casseroles get to the table safely, motorists must also make their own safety a priority. Virginia State Police are reminding all drivers and passengers of all ages to buckle up this holiday weekend. Preliminary data shows that 54% of people who died in road crashes this year were not wearing a seat belt or restraint.*

“The fact that more than half of those killed in traffic accidents this year were not wearing seat belts is a tragic and inexcusable reality for Virginia,” said Col. Gary T. Settle, Virginia State Police Superintendent. “Your family wants you to arrive safely and clicking a seatbelt can help with that. The Virginia State Police and your loved ones want you to arrive safely at your destination – ditch distractions, respect boundaries of posted speed, never drive buzzed or drunk and, again, always fasten your seat belt.

To further prevent traffic deaths and injuries during the Thanksgiving holiday, Virginia State Police will once again participate in Operation CARE – Crash Awareness and Reduction Effort. As part of the national, state-sponsored program, state police will increase their visibility and traffic enforcement efforts during the five-day statistical count period that begins at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday, November 23, 2022 and ends ends at midnight. Sunday November 27, 2022.

Thanksgiving 2021’s Operation CARE initiative led to soldiers citing 5,127 speeding tickets and 1,565 reckless drivers statewide. Virginia Soldiers charged 65 drivers with driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol and/or drugs, and cited 477 drivers for failing to buckle up and/or failing to put on underage passengers.

There were five traffic fatalities during the five-day statistical tally period of Thanksgiving in 2021 and 12 traffic fatalities during the same period in 2020.

This year, the Thanksgiving Holiday CARE initiative is part of the annual “Click it or buy a ticket” campaign. This enforcement and education initiative aims to further emphasize the vital value of seat belts for every person in a vehicle.

Along with increased patrols, Virginia State Police are also reminding drivers of Virginia’s “Move Over” law, which requires motorists to move when approaching a stopped emergency vehicle along the road. If unable to move, drivers are required to pass the emergency vehicle carefully. The law also applies to workers in vehicles equipped with yellow lights.

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