Turkey-Trotting? Police: “Stay off electronic devices”

By on November 24, 2015

 

Here’s what you might want to know if you’re traveling on Thanksgiving holiday.

 by Patrick Burns

If you’re getting behind the wheel to travel over the Thanksgiving holiday, expect cheaper gas, increased police coverage, good weather, better navigation tools, and hopefully, undistracted drivers.

Those lower gas prices — $2.28 per gallon average in Lancaster County on Tuesday, according to AAA — will attract more travelers.

While local gas averaged $2.28 per gallon according to AAA, many stations sold gas for $2.25 on Tuesday

While local gas averaged $2.28 per gallon according to AAA, many stations sold gas for $2.25 on Tuesday

AAA forecasts 46.9 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more from home during the holiday. Of that total, 42 million will travel by car.

With increased traffic comes additional police coverage, said Sgt. David Devit, of Pennsylvania State Police Troop L in Bowmansville.

He urged drivers to prepare, allow extra time, and be well-rested before starting your trip. One other thing: keep electronic devices out of driver’s hands.

“Drivers should try not to be distracted by either your cell phone device or radio,” Devit said.

Distracted Drivers

In Pennsylvania, people can be cited for texting and driving but not talking on their phones, he said.

A recent study cited that cellphone use was a factor in 1,007 crashes in Adams, Dauphin, Cumberland, Lancaster, York, Lebanon and Perry counties from 2009 to 2014.

Police say stay off your electronic devices as “people compete for space and distance” during Thanksgiving travel season.

Police say stay off your electronic devices as “people compete for space and distance” during Thanksgiving travel season.

But many safety advocates, such as PennDOT Spokeswoman Fritzi Schreffler, believe crash statistics involving the use of handheld devices are “grossly underreported because no one is going to admit to doing it.”

Devit said the risk of a distracted driving crash “is amplified when you have even more traffic out there.”

“People compete for space and distance,” he said “It only takes one person to make a bad maneuver or decision that causes a chain reaction.”

Cheaper Gas

Lower gas prices serve as an enticement calling motorist to travel — expected to be the highest number since 2007.

“Lower prices are helping boost disposable income, and enabling families to kick off the holiday season with a Thanksgiving getaway,” said Marshall Doney, AAA president and CEO.

But many say gas should be even lower and that consumers should have more disposable income heading into the Christmas shopping season

There have been wild local gas price swings in the past two years: (From Left to right) Nov. 12, 2015; Jan. 29, 2015; Oct. 10, 2014; Nov. 21, 2013.

There have been wild local gas price swings in the past two years: (From Left to right) Nov. 12, 2015; Jan. 29, 2015; Oct. 10, 2014; Nov. 21, 2013.

At $2.28 per gallon, Lancaster County gas prices are down 32 cents from five months ago and 60 cents less than a year ago — when many experts had predicted gas prices would dip below $2 per by now.

The national average on Tuesday was $2.06 or 22 cents per gallon less than here.

Thankful for Cheaper Gas?

Experts, such as AAA, suggest now that gas will fall below $2 per gallon by around Christmas.

But current and former local residents don’t know whether to be angry or thankful by the drop.

“Our gas prices in Pennsylvania are higher because of our greedy state government which has the highest gas tax in the nation,” noted Lititz resident George Warner, on our Facebook page.

He cited a common refrain among Lititz-area residents that gas there is almost always several cents more per gallon than neighboring areas such as Ephrata.

AAA gas price chart Tues Nov. 24

AAA gas price chart Tues Nov. 24

“Right now, gas can be found for $2.299 in Lititz,” he said.

Steve Grill, an Ephrata native, was one of many transplants from the area to weigh in on local gas prices.

“Sub-$2 per gallon may be coming,” he noted. “It’s been $1.75 per gallon in South Carolina, just south of Charlotte, for four months.”

“They’re below $2 here in North Dakota, but I’d trade that for the chance to be home again,” said former Lititz resident Sharon Green Lauderman.

Even Cheaper Gas?

Despite failed expectations, experts continue to predict quick-falling prices. A Nov. 16 Time.com headline stated “Gas Prices Are Plummeting, $1.50 Per Gallon Coming Soon.”  http://time.com/money/4114842/gas-prices-cheap-2-gallon/

Analysts at GasBuddy, which had recently forecast the national average for regular gas could hit $1.98 by Christmas,

Gas at $1.50 Per Gallon Coming Soon?

Gas at $1.50 Per Gallon Coming Soon?

now predicts even steeper drops by December 25: “Some of the cheapest stations in the nation could drop to $1.49/gallon by then, with the national average dropping into the $1.80s.”

PennDOT Navigation Tool

While you stop to fill up, you might want to try a new “historic” navigation device from PennDOT.

The tool, available on www.511PA.com, allows users to see how traffic speeds on the Wednesday before and Sunday after Thanksgiving in 2013 and 2014 compare to average traffic conditions.

The “Historic Holiday Traffic” page allows users to choose their region and view an hour-by-hour, color-coded visual of how traffic speeds on these travel periods compare to the average speed at the same time and day of week. The information is provided for roughly 2,900 highway miles as part of the data supplying the statewide speed data for 511PA.

PennDOT Secretary Leslie S. Richards last week urged drivers to use the tool and take steps for a safe holiday travel period and winter season.

“With Thanksgiving being one of the busiest travel periods during the year, it can be a challenge to decide when to begin your trip,” Richards said. “This page is one more way we’re putting as much information as possible into drivers’ hands so they can make informed travel decisions.”

“Black Wednesday”

AAA DRINKThe Wednesday night before Thanksgiving is often referred to as “Black Wednesday.” Not unlike Black Friday where retailers draw massive crowds looking for discounted goods, the Wednesday before Thanksgiving has a reputation as drawing the biggest drinking crowds of the year.

While there’s no hard evidence to confirm Thanksgiving Eve is the biggest bar night, there’s plenty of anecdotal information floating around, according to The Drink Nation on Philly.com.

“Bar owners in nearly every U.S. city say they expect a huge sales bump on that Wednesday night; police forces around the country offer special anti-drunk-driving programs and set up extra checkpoints on that eve; and new car service or designated driver smartphone apps like Uber roll out special promotions and partnerships for the night.”

Sgt. Devit acknowledged that state police will be on extra alert on Wednesday.

Police will be on extra alert on “Black Wednesday,” on Thanksgiving Eve.

Police will be on extra alert on “Black Wednesday,” on Thanksgiving Eve.

“That’s an extremely heavy travel period,” he said. “You see young people traveling home from college, but also a lot of families are traveling a great distance that want to be at their destination Thanksgiving morning.”

Devit said he’s optimistic about having good weather Wednesday which is forecast to be sunny, 59 degrees and zero percent chance of precipitation.

Deer Season

While he cautioned about “watching out for the other guy,” Devit said be on the lookout for four-legged obstacles as well.

Tom Grohol picks up between 80 and 100 dead deer each year from county roads. Here he prepares to heave a doe's carcus to the back of his Bronco.

Tom Grohol picks up between 80 and 100 dead deer each year from county roads. Here he prepares to heave a doe’s carcus to the back of his Bronco.

“We’re upon deer season and motorists traveling out here along the Turnpike, also want to be cognizant of deer in the roadway,” he said.

According to PennDOT statistics there were 3,487 accidents involving deer as “roadside obstacles” in 2014 that caused nine deaths.

“Whether it’s a live deer or one that’s already been struck. We have maintenance crews who respond to move deer off the road but sometimes it takes them just a little bit of time to respond as well.”

 

Turkey-Trotting? Police: “Stay off electronic devices”

 

Patrick Burns is a social media editor and staff writer for The Ephrata Review. He welcomes your questions and comments and can be reached at pburns.eph@lnpnews.com or at 721-4455¶

 

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