More than a million to hit roads in North Carolina

Thanksgiving, turkey and travel just seem to go together. But, John Ruth, the safety and occupational health specialist at the Cherry Point Safety Office, said those hitting the road this holiday would be wise to plan ahead for their trips.

“You have to make sure you’re prepared,” he said.

That preparation involves making sure your vehicle can make the trip. Ruth suggests travelers make sure their tires are in good shape, the oil is full and that the windshield wiper fluid is topped off.

One thing he said travelers must do is take their time while giving themselves opportunities to rest.

“When I leave Havelock, usually my first stop is in Kinston,” he said of the city about an hour west on U.S. 70.

He said though many want to hit the road as soon as they get off work, he suggests travelers build in some time to relax before a long trip in the car.

Ruth urges those military members traveling for the Thanksgiving holiday use the Travel Risk Planning System, known as TRiPS.

“It’s a risk management tool,” he said of the online system that can be accessed at trips.safety.army.mil. “It gives you a schedule and then a thumb’s up to let you know you’re ready.”

Ruth recommends travelers not drive more than eight hours per day.

“Despite what people say, coffee is not going to keep you awake,” he said. “Your body has its own clock.”

The vehicle should include a small emergency repair kit, blankets, some snacks and water.

He said a cell phone can be a valuable tool in providing weather conditions, road closures, wreck information and travel updates, though travelers should not use the phone while driving.

“Be careful of people on the road. You’re not the only one on the road,” he said. “The speed limit might be 70 mph, but not everyone is going 70. If traffic is bad, just get off the road and take a rest.”

Ruth said there is one requirement for any traveler.

“Make sure everyone is buckled up,” he said.

Ruth said Cherry Point doesn’t keep track of the exact number of the base’s 8,000 Marines who will travel this holiday. He said some may take short “day trips” to Myrtle Beach, S.C., just to get away for a day or two, while others may take longer road trips to visit family for the four-day weekend.

About 1.4 million North Carolinians are expected to travel 50 miles or more this Thanksgiving holiday, according to AAA Carolinas. The organization cites an improving economy, general consumer confidence and comparatively low gas prices.

Though average gas prices across North Carolina of $2.13 per gallon are slightly higher than last year’s average of $2.10, gas prices are not necessarily a deterrent to holiday travel, according to the organization. Gas prices in the Havelock and New Bern areas were a couple of pennies either side of $2.00 per gallon on Monday morning.

The Thanksgiving travel period runs from Wednesday through Sunday. Last year, 22 people died in traffic wrecks on North Carolina roads during the Thanksgiving weekend, according to AAA.