NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The great escape has begun.
With Fourth of July landing on a Saturday this year, Thursday was the big getaway day for travelers.READ MORE: FDNY Probationary Firefighter Vincent Malveaux Dies After Medical Episode During Training Exercise
AAA predicts close to 42 million people travel for the holiday weekend thanks to the improving economy and relatively inexpensive gas prices.
1010 WINS’ John Montone caught up with holiday travelers at the Vince Lombardi rest stop on the New Jersey Turnpike.
“We’re heading way up north to Vermont,” one man said.
“Long drive,” said a woman heading from New Hampshire to Pennsylvania for a family golf outing with two little kids in the car.
As day turned into evening in New York City on Thursday, congestion on the roads picked up.
“Traffic everywhere I move. I tried to make it down here and it took me like an hour and 15 minutes from the Bronx,” Roberto Matos told CBS2’s Matt Kozar.
The West Side Highway looked more like a parking lot during evening commute as motorists fled Manhattan.
AAA Spokesman Robert Sinclair said if you haven’t left yet, don’t because traffic will be too heavy.
“You can go home, rest, relax, watch a ballgame or something and get up very early on Friday and then take your trip,” he said. “Possibly avoid major highways. I-95 corridor is probably going to be completely jammed this weekend.”
As the roads get increasingly more busy, the rails might be a better option.
“I was expecting it to be busier, more volume,” said Kandi Harmon.READ MORE: Columbia University Student Davide Giri Stabbed To Death Near Morningside Park; Suspected Gang Member In Custody, Sources Say
During what is typically a frantic rush hour, Penn Station was unusually quiet Thursday evening, Kozar reported.
Armed Amtrak police and K-9 Units are on high alert, patrolling the train station ahead of the holiday weekend.
“We’ve seen lots of police. A dog just came through. We feel really safe,” said Wayne Davis.
NJ TRANSIT has buses and trains ready for those looking to get an early start on the July Fourth holiday weekend.
Early getaway service is available Thursday on the Northeast Corridor, North Jersey Coast, Raritan Valley, Midtown Direct, Pascack Valley and Port Jervis lines.
Buses also will be leaving early from the Port Authority terminal and from the Hudson River waterfront.
The Long Island Rail Road also added extra eastbound trains between 1:40 p.m. and 3:48 p.m.
People with big holiday weekend plans on Long Island’s East End were lining up all day for the Hamptons Jitney at 86th Street and Third Avenue on the Upper East Side.
“Are you kidding? After this winter I am definitely looking forward to it — the sun and the fun, just hanging out,” one woman told 1010 WINS’ Derricke Dennis.
“Best part, probably just chilling with your friends by the pool relaxing,” one man said.
Many are expected to hit the roads and Debra Herzman, head of the National Safety Council, is pleading with drivers to shut the phones off, slow down and use a designated driver.
“The last six months of data have shown are fatalities month over month are up compared to last year’s,” Herzman said. “We are actually expecting record breaking fatalities this weekend because so many people are going to be on the road.”
Technology in newer cars is saving lives and she recommends motorists become familiar with the safety features, including forward collision warnings and rear cross traffic alerts.MORE NEWS: 'We're In An Official Blood Emergency Right Now': New York Blood Center Calls For Donations
“You’ve got to make sure that you understand that technology in your car,” Herzman said.