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Holiday travel on the rebound

Organizations issue safety recommendations

If you’re hitting the road or the airport this Thanksgiving weekend, you won’t be alone. AAA predicts 53.4 million people — 2.2 million of those Ohioans — will travel for the Thanksgiving holiday, up 13 percent from last year.

While still not hitting 2019 levels, the increase is the highest in one year since 2005, AAA stated.

The travel forecast for the AAA East North Central Region, which includes Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin, shows an expected 7.9 million people will travel by automobile, 781,000 by air, and 171,000 by other means — meaning some 8.85 million people in the region will be traveling through Sunday.

While air travel is up some 80 percent from last year, a majority of travelers still prefer cars as their mode of travel, AAA reports — and the organization expects to rescue 400,000 Americans at the roadside this Thanksgiving weekend.

AAA recommends that motorists be patient, be early and be proactive: Arrive at least two hours ahead of departure times for domestic flights, book car rentals and car accommodations as early as possible, and follow health requirements and recommendations.

On its holiday travel page, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention still recommends delaying travel until fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Everyone, including those who are fully vaccinated, is required to wear a mask on public transportation, according to the CDC.

SAFETY FIRST

With winter fast approaching, the Ohio Turnpike recommends travelers keep masks, hand sanitizer, and disinfectant wipes in their vehicles as well as items traditionally kept for cold-weather safety, including jumper cables, blankets, tow rope, sand or cat litter, water and snacks, flares, first aid kit, shovel, flashlight, ice scraper and cellphone charger.

Rest stops along the turnpike remain open with food available, but wait times may be longer than usual due to the national worker shortage, according to turnpike officials.

Traffic authorities also are reminding everyone to buckle up.

During Thanksgiving weekend in 2019, 279 passenger-vehicle occupants were killed in crashes across the nation. Around 54 percent of those killed were not wearing a seat belt, according to information provided by the Ohio Turnpike.

“It’s hard to believe in today’s society with what we know about fatal crashes that people don’t buckle up every time they’re in the car,” Trumbull County Sheriff Paul Monroe said during a recent news conference when the Ohio State Highway Patrol reported 24 fatal accidents causing 26 fatalities so far in 2021 — the most in Trumbull County in almost a decade. An additional 939 crashes in the county this year resulted in injuries.

The last time the county saw a similar number of fatal crashes was in 2012, when there were 25. There were 19 fatal crashes in the county in all of 2020 and 18 fatal crashes in 2019, according to data from OSHP.

In response to the high number of fatal and serious-injury crashes, OSHP, Trumbull County Sheriff’s Office, Bazetta and Howland police departments and Trumbull County Safe Communities have partnered to raise awareness and promote safe driving this holiday season.

In Mahoning County this year has already seen its share of deadly crashes. Since Jan. 1, Mahoning has had 20 fatal accidents, according to state patrol records. Eight of those crashes were related to operating a vehicle under the influence and four involved motorcycles.

There were 18 fatal crashes in Mahoning County in 2020 and 22 in 2019, patrol records show.

OH DEER!

November is also a peak time for deer-related crashes. Since 2016, Ohio has had more than 100,670 deer-related crashes, according to the patrol’s data.

While 95 percent of deer-related crashes resulted only in property damage, 27 crashes resulted in 28 fatalities.

In a statement, Gov. Mike DeWine encouraged motorists to use extra caution and slow down.

“A crash with a deer can be just as destructive as a crash with another vehicle, so it’s important that drivers remember to stay alert and watch out for animals crossing the road,” DeWine said.

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