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Thanksgiving Travel 42.5 Million Record Jump 4%

11/18/2011 12:32 PM ET

Thanksgiving Travel 42.5 Million Record - Millions of Americans will travel to their Thanksgiving annual holiday gathering next week — about 42.5 million, according to AAA. That’s a 4% jump over 2010 and the first significant increase in travel of at least 50 miles for any holiday this year, the auto club says.

Based on all the metrics studied by groups ranging from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to the Texas Transportation Institute and from Allstate Insurance to the National Motorists Association, certain areas emerge as places that drivers would do well to avoid — cities, states and stretches of roads that are notorious for making a trip tougher.

Holiday traffic backups will peak one hour earlier than normal during the Wednesday afternoon commute as many leave work early, according to Inrix, a Kirkland, Wash., firm that tracks traffic congestion.

Most cities will see a lighter than normal Wednesday morning commute as travelers take the day off to make final plans before hitting the road, Inrix says.

Spokesman Jim Bak says that gateway cities such as Atlanta, Chicago, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Hartford can expect significant backups over the holiday period.

Inrix recommends that those heading out on Wednesday plan to leave home no later than 2 p.m. local time to avoid getting caught in gridlock. “If you can, go on Thursday morning,” Bak says. “There will be no traffic on Thursday.”

Drivers will want to be particularly careful in Illinois and Virginia, where the maximum penalties for speeding top out at $2,500, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Rounding out the list of the 10 states with the highest maximum speeding fines: Georgia and Nevada, $2,000; Florida, Indiana, Minnesota, North Carolina, $1,000; Utah, $750; Iowa, $625.

As annoying as it can be to sit in Thanksgiving traffic, particularly when you don’t know what’s causing it, nothing puts a damper on the holiday spirit and your travels like getting nailed for speeding in those states.

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