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More traffic for 2009 holiday

A projected 38.4 million people will travel 50 miles or more from their U.S. homes over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend — a 1.4-percent increase from last year — according to AAA.

AAA Alabama spokesperson Clay Ingram expects that increase to be greater for the Southeast, where more favorable weather, shopping and the Iron Bowl will affect travel statistics.

“I think probably what we’re likely to see is that travel in Alabama and the Southeastern U.S. will be busier than in other parts of the country,” Ingram said.

Last year, Thanksgiving travel dropped 25.2 percent in the wake of the ongoing housing and financial crisis.

This year’s expected increase in travel reflects improved consumer confidence from one year ago, better financial market performance and a growing sense that the worst of the global economic crisis is behind us, AAA said.

That optimism has created a higher demand for energy, one of the factors behind higher gas prices. Also, the dollar is devalued globally, making crude oil a bargain for foreign investors, Ingram said.

The average price of regular unleaded gasoline is projected at $2.52 for Thanksgiving weekend, compared to $1.90 in 2008.

“That’s when the down-spiral in the economy really started to hit the gas pumps,” Ingram said.

Little to no change is predicted for gas prices throughout the end of the year.

“It’s been fairly stable, and, honestly, I expect it to stay fairly stable throughout the remainder of the year,” he said.

AAA advises travelers to plan ahead by having their vehicles checked prior to departure, leaving early to allow for extra time, and reducing distractions for drivers.