COLUMBUS — Ohioans bound for Thanksgiving meals and family festivities began crisscrossing the state and country by road and air Wednesday as law enforcement stepped up patrols for a busy holiday travel period, even as the sluggish economic recovery affected plans for some people.
Auto club AAA expected nearly 1.7 million Ohioans to travel at least 50 miles from home between Wednesday and Sunday, up slightly from last year, with most of them traveling by automobile. Air travel was expected to decline slightly in Ohio and nationwide, with about 123,000 Ohioans flying during the Thanksgiving period.
Kaylee Swanson, a promotions director for the minor league baseball team in Wappingers Falls, N.Y., said she anticipated spending at least 11 hours driving back to her hometown of Sandusky, Ohio, stopping along the way to see her boyfriend's relatives in Pennsylvania. She said a comparison of travel costs and the fact that her boyfriend could do some of the driving helped make highway travel the best and most flexible option for them.
“I looked into gas prices and it's a lot less expensive in anywhere but New York, so I think I should be OK,” said Swanson, 26. Ohio's average price for a gallon of regular gas was $3.52 in Wednesday's survey from AAA, the Oil Price Information Service and Wright Express, making it a penny cheaper than last week but up nearly 30 cents from this time last year.
Swanson said she'd missed Thanksgiving with her family — and the homemade pecan pie — the past three years because she had lived elsewhere and chose to visit them at other times instead.
“There's probably a half of a pie waiting for me to make up for missed time,” she said.
Urging drivers to prioritize safety above speed on the roadways, the State Highway Patrol and local police planned increased enforcement efforts and sobriety checkpoints around the state.
Four people died early Wednesday morning when a vehicle veered off a roadway and overturned in southwest Ohio's Warren County. Troopers said excessive speed and alcohol were suspected factors in that crash.
There were 17 traffic fatalities during the Thanksgiving period last year.