And Americans vote again for the automobile

Surveys from AAA suggest Americans will be traveling by car in record proportions for Thanksgiving:

Next week, 94 percent of Thanksgiving travelers nationally are expected to drive — up from 86 percent in 2008 and 80 percent in 2000, according surveys conducted by AAA.

The air-travel share is projected at 3.8 percent this Thanksgiving, the lowest figure in a decade. Air travel accounted for 13 percent of Thanksgiving travel in 2000, AAA said.

A quick interpretation might be that people are fed up with airport security. But interestingly, these surveys were conducted before the TSA announced more intrusive search procedures:

AAA officials noted that the data on Thanksgiving travel, which are based on the plans of people surveyed, were collected before the TSA announced it was switching to more intensive pat-downs of airline passengers and increased use of the full-body scanners.

“Those folks who said, ‘I’ve had it with the airport hassle and I’m traveling by auto,’ did so before the TSA’s new rules were put in place,” said Beth Mosher, spokeswoman for AAA Chicago. “We’ve seen a lot of people grousing. It’s hard to say if people will eventually get used to the changes. We’ll know more once we see Christmas travel numbers.”

I haven’t seen these survey figures and whether they ask people specifically why they chose the travel mode they did.

But I’ll quickly offer another take: Americans don’t need much of an excuse to travel by car. Our love affair with the car (or more appropriately for family travels this weekend, the SUV or minivan) is well-established and could be an important factor in this story. Ultimately, travel within a certain radius (roughly 6-14 hours of driving one way) could either be done by airplane or car (or as some hope, by faster trains in the future). Certain factors, such as ticket prices, weather, availability, gas prices, and other odd factors, such as new airport security measures, can push people back to their vehicles which they might have been reluctant to leave behind anyway.

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