By Budd McLaughlin
This is one of the biggest travel weeks of the year, and the weather will make driving on the crowded highways possibly treacherous.
Another traffic factor is related to Saturday’s Iron Bowl clash between Alabama and Auburn.
AAA is expecting travel to be down about 1 percent nationwide, but in Alabama that figure is “negligible,” according to Clay Ingram, spokesman for AAA Alabama.
“There were 44 million people traveling 50 miles or more last year,” he said. “This year, it’s expected to be about 43.5 million people.
“You won’t notice that around Alabama. It’s going to be really busy, really congested on the highway.”
Ingram said the roads should be exceptionally packed Friday and Saturday for Black Friday and other shopping and he said Saturday’s football game might further affect traffic.
“You have to factor in shopping and the Auburn-Alabama game,” he said. “We get a fair amount of drive-through traffic … from Florida, Texas, Tennessee.”
Those headed north from here today or Wednesday, might encounter frozen precipitation on the way in the form of rain, sleet or even snow.
“If you’re traveling for Thanksgiving, near or far, you may have an issue,” said Jennifer Schuller, a forecaster with the National Weather Service’s Huntsville office.
It’s advisable to check ahead to get up-to-date weather information online and with the states’ departments of transportation for road conditions.
Ingram said travelers should pad their travel time schedule and leave earlier.
“If you get a late start, you’re going to get anxious and nervous,” he said. “You’ll put yourself and others in danger.
“Just go with the flow and take the danger and stress out of it.”
Ingram had some tips for those hitting the road:
• Pad your travel time schedule. Leave a half-hour early to allow for traffic, especially if you take side roads.
• Get your car checked out. If you can’t get it inspected, at least check the fluids and tire pressure.
• Do whatever you can to reduce the distractions for the driver. Let the passenger in the front seat handle all the duties: communication – cellphone, texting, etc.; snacks; directions.
• Pack emergency supplies such as blankets, water, snacks, flashlight and a first aid kit. Local auto supply stores and retail stores should have highway emergency kits available.
“The driver does not need to be texting or talking on the phone,” Ingram said. “The driver needs to focus on driving.
“With the traffic out there, the margin of error is small.”