Millions of Texans are expected to either fly or drive to their holiday destinations this year. Here are some ways to avoid headaches or at least make things easier:
It’s not the busiest time of year at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, but it’s close. More than 26,000 people departed from the airport the day before Thanksgiving last year, and airport officials don’t expect that to be any different this year.
“It’s unique in the sense that a lot of the folks who are traveling maybe don’t travel too much during the rest of the year,” Bryce Dubee, public information specialist for the airport, said. “So we do want to remind folks that things have changed if the last time they were here was last Thanksgiving.”
Those changes include the new nine-gate expansion that opened earlier this year, as well as a new parking garage. The location for rideshare pickups has changed, too; it's now located in the lower level of the rental care facility. Also, this will be the second Thanksgiving week that Frontier Airlines will be operating from the South Terminal, joining Allegiant.
The airport expects Tuesday and Wednesday to be the busiest times before Thanksgiving, with Sunday and Monday the busiest times after the holiday. Along with the usual advice of arriving early, Dubee also advises passengers to plan ahead in case of inclement weather elsewhere.
“Even if it’s nice and sunny here in Austin, travelers may be heading somewhere flights are greatly impacted, so get in touch with your airline," he said. "You can also check our website; we have real-time flight information right on the main page.”
AAA Texas estimates more than 3.8 million Texans will drive 50 miles or more to their holiday destinations this year. That’s the second highest amount since it began forecasting Thanksgiving holiday travel in 2000. The Texas Department of Transportation said its HERO (Highway Emergency Response Operator) roadside service patrols will be operating this weekend, and motorists can call 512-974-HERO (4376) if they need help.
TxDOT is also urging travelers to help end the state’s 19-year streak of at least one fatality a day on Texas roadways. Last year, 48 people died statewide on Texas roadways during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, the agency said, with three of those deaths in the Austin district. It found unsafe speed and alcohol were the leading causes of fatal crashes.
Drivers in the City of Austin will encounter increased patrols as part of Vision Zero efforts to reduce traffic fatalities. A 40% increase in funding for "no refusal" enforcement is allowing the city to expand those efforts throughout the holiday season.
During no refusal, police can apply for a search warrant from an on-call judge to draw blood from a suspected drunk driver who refuses to provide a voluntary breath or blood sample.
“That means almost any night of the week, the DWI efforts can be ramped up and the 'no refusal' efforts can be in place,” Lewis Leff, transportation safety officer with the Austin Transportation Department, said. “We want to make sure that we’re seeing folks make the right, responsible decisions about how to get where they’re going and how to get home safely.”
Austin police have made more than 1,500 no refusal arrests since January. Police are also stepping up enforcement of other contributors to crashes, including speeding and distracted driving. To find alternative ways to get home, instead of driving drunk, click here.
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