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State Patrol gears up for holiday traffic

WEST SALEM, WI (WKBT) - A slowly recovering economy is keeping roads and airport runways a little emptier this holiday season, according to AAA's latest holiday travel forecast.

The report shows Thanksgiving travel is down 1.5 percent from last year, with only 43.4 million people out and about this week – that's compared to 4 million last year.

About 90 percent of those travelers are getting behind the wheel to get where they need to go, mostly due to anxiety about the sluggish economy, but attractive gas prices are making a car the cheapest choice for travel this season.

"Gas prices are at the lowest point they've been for the last few years. It hasn't been since 2010 that Americans have paid the current rate at the pump for Thanksgiving travel," said AAA spokesperson Gail Weinholzer.

Air travel is taking the biggest hit as nearly 39 million Americans choosing driving over flying this year - it's down about 4 percent from last year.

With more people driving to their holiday destination this week, law enforcement has its work cut out for them on Wisconsin's roads. They're gearing up for their busiest shifts so far this year.


State trooper Ryan Smith has been patrolling the Thanksgiving weekend for 13 years, so he knows what to expect on the road.

"You see a lot more traffic, a lot more calls, a lot more aggressive driving, a lot more speeds," he said of the holiday drivers.

He added you might see a lot more traffic stops.

"With more of us out there working compared to other normal weeks, I would say there's a lot more enforcement action being taken," he said.

Officers will be out in full force all week, watching for speeders at street corners and interstate stops. For Smith and other state patrol officers, the entire holiday weekend is one of their busiest all year, with Wednesday proving to be the worst.

They're warning the 40 million drivers expected to be out over the next few days, to just follow the rules of the road – they won't be cutting any breaks this Thanksgiving holiday.

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