Thanksgiving travel 2023: Best and worst times to hit the road in Southern California

Eric Resendiz Image
Thursday, November 23, 2023

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Holiday drivers who hit the road in Southern California on Wednesday afternoon will have plenty of company, as millions of people are expected to head to their Thanksgiving destinations.

According to the California Highway Patrol, the agency's "maximum enforcement period" is scheduled to begin at 6:01 p.m. and last until 11:59 p.m. Sunday in the greater Los Angeles area and statewide. All available CHP drivers will be on duty during that time period.

The busiest day on the roads is expected to be Wednesday, according to transportation analytics company INRIX. Drivers should leave home in the morning or after 6 p.m. to avoid the heaviest traffic, INRIX said.

On Sunday the worst traffic is forecast to be between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. The best time to hit the road will be before noon, according to INRIX.

A record number of Southern Californians are expected to travel over the Thanksgiving holiday.

According to AAA, travel time on the northbound 5 Freeway between Los Angeles and Bakersfield at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday will take about 2 hours and 59 minutes -- an 88% increase compared to the normal travel time on that stretch of the interstate.

"Knowing when and where congestion will build can help minimize holiday traffic frustrations," said Bob Pishue, an INRIX analyst. "We advise drivers to use traffic apps, local DOT notifications, and 511 services for real-time updates."

AAA predicts that 55.4 million people nationwide will travel at least 50 miles from home between Wednesday and Sunday, the third-highest forecast ever by the auto club. AAA says most of them -- 49.1 million -- will drive, including nearly 4 million Southern Californians.

Over the comparable period last year, 37 people were killed in traffic crashes statewide, and the CHP arrested 1,016 motorists on suspicion of DUI and issued more than 8,600 citations for speed and seat-belt violations.

Motorists filling up their gas tanks in Los Angeles County on Wednesday will get a break from last year on gasoline prices, seeing an average price of $5.041, following a decrease for the 53rd time in 54 days.

The Orange County average price dropped for the 22nd time in 23 days, decreasing 3.3 cents to $4.88.

ABC News contributed to this report.