L.A.’s Thanksgiving traffic nightmare is here. Prepare for a sea of brake lights

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To live in Southern California is to know that most unpleasant of Thanksgiving traditions: terrific traffic.

News helicopter footage of jammed freeways has become, at least on social media, an iconic symbol of the holiday season.

Tuesday’s evening commute was grim, and Wednesday’s won’t be much better, experts say.

Waze chart of Thanksgiving traffic.


Traffic and turkey

Data indicates that in Los Angeles, the worst holiday traffic was expected to occur between 3:15 and 6 p.m. Tuesday, when travel times could more than double. That’s also considered to be the worst time to drive to Los Angeles International Airport, according to INRIX, a company that specializes in connected car services and transportation analytics.

INRIX also highlighted the worst traffic hotspot in the U.S. as the southbound 5 Freeway at Valley View Avenue in La Mirada.

Traffic app Waze said that Tuesday, Wednesday and Sunday are going to be the worst times for traffic in the L.A. area.

Officials were warning motorists Wednesday to assume it will take extra time to get where they need to go.

Andres Garcia, a regular commuter on the 5, said previous years left him "no patience to wait and wait, while the clock ticked and my temper got worse" during the Thanksgiving rush.

This time around, the information technology worker, 28, asked for the holiday week off "to save my mind from exploding. I don't know how anyone can keep calm in situations like this. California is a crazy car country."


Trying to keep the roads safe

The California Highway Patrol plans to assign all available officers on patrol during a "maximum enforcement period" that begins at 6:01 p.m. Wednesday through 11:59 p.m. Sunday.

Since Thanksgiving weekend can be among the deadliest weekends on roadways, officials planned to educate motorists and enforce safety laws — starting with reminding everyone to buckle up.

In 2016's maximum enforcement period, 27 people were killed in collisions on roads in CHP jurisdiction, data show, and 14 were not wearing a seat belt.

“Whether you are driving across the street or across the country for your Thanksgiving gathering, it is imperative to wear your seat belt,” CHP acting Commissioner Warren Stanley said.


Southern California is a popular destination

Anaheim is expected to be the second-most popular Thanksgiving destination nationwide as Americans head to the Disneyland Resort. The top five spots for Southern California travelers, according to a survey of Auto Club’s travel agents, are San Francisco, San Diego, Anaheim, the Grand Canyon and Santa Barbara.

Meanwhile, at Los Angeles International Airport, officials say 2.3 million travelers are expected to pass through during the Thanksgiving travel period, an 8.4% increase over last year's record of 2.1 million, according to Los Angeles World Airports.

LAX is expected to rank as the third-busiest U.S. airport behind Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson and Chicago’s O’Hare. Travel experts also predict that LAX will be the busiest origin-and-destination airport — with more passengers starting or ending their trips there compared with other U.S. airports.