There will be significant increases in air and automobile travel during this Thanksgiving holiday, as high as volumes were prior to Sept. 11, 2001, according to the American Automobile Association (AAA). An estimated 37.2 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more from their homes, said Catherine L. Rossi, public and government relations manager, AAA.

"An increased confidence by travelers will make this an extremely busy travel holiday," said Rossi. "Air fares, hotel rates and gas prices have all increased from last Thanksgiving, yet it appears that more of us will travel for that turkey dinner."

Approximately 30.6 million travelers are expected to go by motor vehicle, while 4.6 million plan to travel by airplane. Both numbers are an increase from last Thanksgiving.

Close to 544,080 Pennsylvanians will be traveling via the automobile, while another 160,751 will take to the friendly skies over the five-day holiday period.

Local gas prices, which are $1.99 for a gallon of self-serve regular gas, are still 47 cents higher than a year ago. However, that didn't deter Beth Batten of Royersford from filling up her tank at the A-Plus Mini Market along Nutt Road Wednesday afternoon.

"I'm on my way to Delaware to spend Thanksgiving with my family," said Batten. "I believe gas is cheaper here than it is down there. Plus, I'm looking forward to doing some tax-free Christmas shopping."

Those who travel via automobile are urged by the Pennsylvania State Police to drive safely and allow for extra travel time during this heavier-than-normal traffic.

According to State Police Commissioner Jeffrey B. Miller, 19 people were killed in crashes investigated by Pa. State Police troopers during the Thanksgiving holiday in 2003. Additionally, 434 people were injured in 1,176 crashes to which the troopers responded to during that same timetable.

"Fifteen of the 19 people killed were not wearing seat belts and seven of the 16 fatal crashes were alcohol-related," said Miller.

Area police departments in West Pikeland, East Pikeland, East Vincent, West Vincent, East Coventry, Schuylkill, Upper Uwchland and Phoenixville will be conducting seat belt enforcement details in conjunction with "Buckle Up Pennsylvania" throughout Northern Chester County.

The Pa. State Police will be participating in Operation C.A.R.E. (Combined Accident Reduction Effort), a national program aimed at reducing the number of traffic crashes on interstate highways during holiday weekends.

Prior to hitting the roadways for your holiday travel, AAA recommends to drivers several auto checks to avoid any potential breakdowns. They remind motorists to check all of the essential fluids, such as oil, transmission fluid, antifreeze and coolant, brake fluid and windshield wiper fluid.

Drivers should check the air pressure on their tires and look for any damage. Several items every vehicle should have during a long road trip include a spare tire and jack, along with a basic emergency kit.

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