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Authorities to ramp up enforcement for Labor Day weekend

By Staff | Sep 5, 2009

With the yet unhealthy economy and late arriving Labor Day holiday, there will be 13.3 percent fewer travelers nationwide over the weekend, and up to 22 percent fewer travelers in Florida versus 2008 numbers, according to AAA South predictions.
In Florida, AAA projects 1.86 million travellers this Labor Day, with about 1.6 million of those being drivers. However, despite the decrease, this Labor Day will be the third busiest in the past decade and may see last -minute jumps due to lower air fare and hotel prices.
Airfare will be down 17 percent on average while AAA-rated hotels will have lower rates by 12 percent. AAA predicts travelers will spend about $968 per household over the weekend.
Regular unleaded gas prices in Cape Coral average $2.579 per gallon, and are about $2.566 per gallon statewide, according to a AAA Web site.
AAA Club South spokesperson Gregg Laskoski said the holiday hasn’t fallen this late in the month since 1998, when the holiday also fell on Sept. 7.
“Especially in the southeast, that creates a little bit of a disruption,” Laskoski said. “Kids have already been back to school for a couple of weeks and parents may be hesitant to disrupt that routine and go on a trip.”
Still, law enforcement officials will be stepping up their patrols to help keep impaired drivers off the road.
The Lee County Sheriff’s Office will conduct a joint-agency Wolfpack Operation over the weekend, looking for aggressive and impaired drivers, as well as speeders.
“(Drivers) need to make sure that they don’t drink and drive, and they need to make sure that they get a designated driver or take money for a cab,” said LCSO Sgt. Stephanie Eller. “People should be patient, because there will probably be extra traffic at the stores.”
The beaches will also likely be congested, Eller said.
“They should give themselves plenty of time to get where they need to so they’re not rushed,” she said.
If others are continuously driving aggressively, or they seem to be unable to maintain a single lane, drivers should call 911 to report as much information as they can about vehicles that may pose a danger to others, Eller said.
Additionally, AAA and Budweiser are teaming up to offer a free confidential ride home and tow for anyone in Florida and several other states who has become intoxicated and cannot drive home from a bar or restaurant.
The service, termed “tow and go,” runs from Sept. 3-7, and can be used by calling 800-AAA-HELP (222-4357).
Allstate Insurance Company is reminding boaters to be safe this holiday season, citing that more than 1 million registered boats are expected to be on Florida waters this weekend.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission reported 657 boating accidents in 2008, with $23,090,756 in damages, the insurance company quoted in a written release this week.
“Boaters need to take their responsibility seriously because they face many of the same risks associated with automobiles, including serious bodily injury and extensive property damage,” said Allstate spokesperson Nicholas Halliwell.
Allstate recommends not drinking and boating, paying attention to swimmers and submerged objects, wearing life jackets, following speed limits, being aware of bad weather and using your boat appropriately and in good working condition.
With the increase in boaters over the weekend, the FWC warns residents to watch out for manatees, and to obey manatee speed zones.
So far this year, the FWC reports 73 manatee deaths resulting from watercraft strikes.
The FWC suggests staying in marked channels, wearing polarized sunglasses, scanning the water and using poles, paddles or trolling motors near manatees.
A way boaters can spot manatees is by scanning the water near the front of their watercraft for “swirls resembling a large footprint, a repetitive line of half-moon swirls, a mud trail or a snout or (tail) breaking the water’s surface,” the FWC said.
Boaters can also help by purchasing specialty manatee license plates, collected funds of which go directly to manatee research and conservation.
Boaters who see a manatee in distress or a dead manatee should call the FWC Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-FWCC (3922).
Motorists can report aggressive driving on the highway or ask for motorist assistance by calling *347.
Additionally, real-time roadway information is available by using the Florida Department of Transportation 511 phone system or by visiting www.FL511.com .