Thousands of New Jersey drivers hit the road for the Thanksgiving holiday

Thousands of New Jersey residents hit the road Wednesday to travel for the Thanksgiving holiday.

This year, the Thanksgiving holiday travel period is defined as Wednesday, Nov. 23, to Sunday, Nov. 27.

AAA estimates that about 1.2 million New Jersey residents will travel more than 50 miles by road to visit friends and family for the holiday. The agency says that this is up more than 4.3 percent from those who traveled for Thanksgiving last year, and the largest projected number of travelers since 2007.

AAA says that driving remains the most popular mode of travel for Thanksgiving with more than 89 percent of holiday travelers driving to their destination.

Thanksgiving gas prices are at their second cheapest prices in nearly a decade across the country. New Jersey's average gas price Wednesday is $2.23, which is 25 cents higher than last year due to the recent gas tax increase. The national average price for fuel is $2.15, which is 10 cents more than last year.

AAA estimates that more than 370,000 motorists nationwide will need rescue service this holiday, with about 7,000 of those in New Jersey. The agency says that the three main reasons for service calls are dead batteries, flat tires and drivers locking themselves out of their vehicles.

State officials say that Thanksgiving is one of New Jersey's deadliest holidays on the highways. Last year, 15 people were killed in motor vehicle crashes in the state throughout the holiday weekend. Six of those were under the influence of drugs or alcohol, according to officials.

State officials say that the night before Thanksgiving is particularly dangerous because college students home on break flock to parties to reunite with friends.

New Jersey State Police say that distracted driving is the No. 1 cause of fatal crashes in the state for the last six years as more drivers are using cellphones and other hand-held devices behind the wheel.

The Associated Press wire services contributed to this report.

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