VAN BUREN TOWNSHIP, Michigan — Higher traffic volumes and a heavier police presence are expected on Michigan roadways during the Thanksgiving holiday period.
About 1.5 million state residents are projected to travel at least 50 miles between Wednesday and Sunday — a 4 percent increase over 2013 — AAA Michigan said. State police also have boosted patrols.
Wednesday morning found light traffic but a heavy police presence along Interstate 94 between Detroit and Ann Arbor. Electronic signs read, "expect enforcement," and several vehicles were pulled over.
At a rest stop in Wayne County's Van Buren Township, Sean Ozier said it had been a "quiet morning" on his shift as a driver for the Michigan Department of Transportation Courtesy Patrol. He'd responded to a few calls about flat tires and abandoned vehicles but figured it will ramp up as the day goes on.
"A lot of times this time of year people hit the road and don't do the proper (vehicle) inspections," he said from his van. "Somebody rushing to the airport to pick somebody up and they didn't stop at the gas station before they go — and, you know, they're on the side of the road literally a mile from the airport."
Meanwhile, Nick Anderson and Catherine Pereira were celebrating their 22nd wedding anniversary driving from suburban Detroit to Chicago to spend Thanksgiving with family.
The relatively low gas prices were a bonus but not a big factor in their trip: "We're going to pay whatever the gas is," Anderson said.
Gas prices have plunged in recent weeks, falling well below $4 a gallon in most places.
As for Pereira, the car trip is preferable to dealing with airports on a holiday. "You couldn't get me on a plane," she said. "And to Chicago, especially, it takes just as long."
The blustery winds and snow that have made driving dangerous in many areas this week eased on Wednesday, with mostly overcast skies and temperatures from the upper teens to mid-30s.
Gov. Rick Snyder, who returned to Michigan on Wednesday from a weeklong trade mission to China, said Thanksgiving is a holiday that unites state residents from a wide variety of backgrounds.
"Michigan is a big home for 10 million people," he said in a statement. "Many came here from different states and countries. We have different religions, some speak different languages. But we're all Michiganders."