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Gas prices fall as travelers tank up for Thanksgiving

The lowest Thanksgiving gas prices since 2008 will make traveling less expensive this year. Several stations on South Saunders Street in Raleigh listed prices well below $2 per gallon for regular on Monday.
The lowest Thanksgiving gas prices since 2008 will make traveling less expensive this year. Several stations on South Saunders Street in Raleigh listed prices well below $2 per gallon for regular on Monday. cseward@newsobserver.com

Airports and highways are busy this week, and the AAA motor club predicts that 1.35 million North Carolinians will make trips for the Thanksgiving holiday.

Gas is about 70 cents a gallon cheaper than this time last year, with the lowest Thanksgiving prices since 2008. Triangle drivers paid an average $2.056 for regular unleaded gas on Monday, according to the Oil Price Information Service. Some stations have dropped their prices below $1.90.

The state Department of Transportation says it will suspend work on most highway projects starting Wednesday morning. But travelers should watch for possible backups around construction-related lane closures.

On Raleigh’s southern Beltline, Interstate 40 is squeezed into three lanes each way for 8.5 miles. In Harnett County, U.S. 421/N.C. 27 is closed for construction of a pedestrian tunnel at Campbell University.

Other construction delays are likely on parts of U.S. 264 in Dare County, U.S. 158 in Elizabeth City, N.C. 11 in Hertford County, N.C. 94 in Tyrrell County, U.S. 311 and I-85 Business in Randolph County, U.S. 74 in Cleveland and Jackson counties, and westbound I-40 in Haywood County. DOT highway updates are available by phone at 511, online at the Travel section of ncdot.gov, and via Twitter @ncdot.

State troopers and local police will focus attention on interstates and other main highways during the long holiday weekend. They’ll be watching for speeding drivers who may worry too much about being late for Thanksgiving dinner – and for impaired drivers who should have given up their car keys after indulging in holiday spirits.

The State Highway Patrol says troopers and officers will be posted every 20 miles along seven interstate corridors during two heavy traffic periods: 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Wednesday and 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday.

AAA cites falling gas prices as one of the factors that will make the highways busy. Airfares have dropped, too – about 10 percent lower than at Thanksgiving last year, AAA says.

Raleigh-Durham Airport will handle more than 30,000 airline passengers each day on the three busiest days: Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday.

RDU’s parking garage and its Park and Ride Lot 3 are expected to fill up at times. Drivers will be directed to Park and Ride Lot 4 north of the passenger terminals in the cargo area. Travelers should check electronic message boards as they arrive at RDU for up-to-date airport parking information, or consult Twitter @RDUairport.

Bruce Siceloff: 919-829-4527, @Road_Worrier

Buckle up

North Carolina’s “Click It or Ticket” campaign cranked up Monday for the holiday week. State and local law enforcement officers will focus on enforcement of seat belt and child safety seat laws.

A national report issued Monday by the Governors Highway Safety Association focused on weak laws in North Carolina and other states regarding adults who ride in the back seat without buckling their belts.

These riders are three times more likely to die in a crash if their seat belts are not fastened, the study says. Seat belts would have saved an estimated 400 lives in such cases nationwide in 2013.

North Carolina requires seat belts or child safety seats for all riders. But its penalties vary widely:

▪  Child passenger, under age 16 in any seat: Fines and fees, including court costs, totaling $263 for the driver.

▪  Front-seat passenger or driver, 16 and older: The individual pays $179 in fines and fees.

▪  Back-seat passenger, 16 and older: A $10 fine, no court costs.

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