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For holiday drivers, safety is the main course

Millions of Floridians are planning to drive over the river, through the trees and down the interstate for the Thanksgiving holiday. While some 278,000 people in the Sunshine State plan to fly for their vacation, the vast majority of travelers will hit the road. All that traffic makes this a dangerous time. Capt. Mark Welch of the Florida Highway Patrol says drivers should remember the basics: "It's a holiday, so plan your trip, allow plenty of time to your destination, obey the speed limit, wear your seat belt, don't drink and drive, and dial *FHP or *347 to report aggressive driving." Curtis Krueger, Times staff writer

The good news for travelers is that gas prices are down, under $2 a gallon at many Tampa Bay area stations. A look back at AAA's statewide average for regular unleaded gasoline:

This year (as of Sunday) $1.98

Thanksgiving 2007 $3.15

Thanksgiving 2006 $2.26

Thanksgiving 2005 $2.30

Thanksgiving 2004 $2.00

More good news: fewer motorists on the road. AAA estimates that more than 2.1-million Floridians will drive for the holidays, fewer than last year's projections.

This year 2,149,944

2007 2,231,916

2006 2,188,153

2005 2,028,871

2004 2,016,771

Drive smart

If you are planning to make a long drive and then spend several hours stuffing yourself with turkey, don't try to guzzle coffee and drive back home at night.

"We encourage those folks to stay overnight, get a fresh start in the morning. They're refreshed, they can drive in daylight hours," said AAA's Gregg Laskoski.

Sunny Thanksgiving

With the economy faltering and tourism suffering, the state agency Visit Florida is urging Floridians to take vacations by exploring their own state. The idea, says corporate communications manager Dia Kuykendall, is "to encourage people that live here in Florida to get out and see parts of Florida that they've never seen." Need some ideas? The agency highlights 10 vacation experts who write blogs about unique Florida-only destinations at www.visitflorida.com/all_experts. The bloggers also will respond to reader questions like, Where can I find kid-friendly, gluten-free food near Ellenton? Where do I go to find discounted green fees near Orlando? What's the best beach in Florida in February?

Slow going

Here are some construction zones that could slow you down on major routes around the state, depending on time of day and work schedules:

Interstate 4: between Exits 79 and 94 near Orlando.

Interstate 95: between Exits 356B and 358A in Jacksonville.

Interstate 75: north of Florida's Turnpike in Sumter County; between Exit 136 in Lee County and Exit 105 in Collier County; and near the Collier County-Broward County line.

For holiday drivers, safety is the main course 11/23/08 [Last modified: Sunday, November 23, 2008 9:55pm]

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