Heavy traffic expected for Memorial Day weekend
Memorial Day is viewed by many to be the unofficial start of summer, with the long weekend giving way to many traveling across the country.
“Higher gas prices will not be enough to keep travelers home this Memorial Day weekend,” said Vicky Evans, assistant vice president, Travel Sales Development, AAA The Auto Club Group in a written statement. “A strong economy and growing consumer confidence are giving Americans all the motivation they need to kick off what we expect to be a busy summer travel season with a Memorial Day getaway.”
According to AAA, more than 41.5 million Americans will travel this holiday weekend, including automobiles, planes, trains, buses and cruise ships, a jump up from last year and the fourth consecutive year of travel volume growth.
In Florida, more than 2.2 million people are expected to travel, once again higher than last year despite gas prices being the highest they’ve been in four years.
AAA spokesman Mark Jenkins said people want a change from day-to-day rituals despite the rise in gas prices.
“With this being the kickoff to the summer travel season, people are ready to take a break from the daily grind and travel with their families. The fact that gas prices have gradually increased – as opposed to a sudden spike – people are a little less spooked by that. Add to that, continued confidence in the economy, motorists are more willing to adjust their budgets, allocating more money for gasoline and making cuts in discretionary spending like shopping and dining out.”
AAA says though gas prices may be the highest they’ve been in some time, flights, hotels and rental cars have all seen a reduction in rates.
Jenkins’ advice to weekend travelers is as follows: “Plan ahead. Whether you’re taking a road trip or going to the airport, allow yourself extra time, with the expectation that there will be long security lines and congested roads,” he said.
“If you’re planning a road trip, be sure to get enough rest before you get behind the wheel, and take frequent breaks every couple hours or 100 miles, to reduce avoid drowsy driving. Also while driving, remove any distractions like cell phones. If you have a passenger allow them to be your navigator. Do not under any circumstances drive while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. And do wear your seatbelt.”
Jenkins says traffic will start to pick up towards the end of the week and that being prepared is your greatest tool.
“Thursday and Friday are forecast to be the busiest days on the roads, because there will be a mix of both holiday travelers and people commuting to and from work. The airports will also be busiest on Thursday/Friday and Monday, with those departing and returning from their extended weekend vacation.”
“Being in a hurry,” he said, is the biggest mistake one can make when traveling.
“People who are in a rush are more likely to forget things like passes or important identification. Those who are in a hurry are more likely to take unnecessary risks while behind the wheel, increasing the odds of a crash.”
AAA is also offering their ‘Tow to Go’ program, a resource that can keep impaired drivers off the road after maybe having a bit too much fun over the weekend.
“Tow to Go” will be offered starting Friday, May 25, through 6 a.m. Tuesday, May 29. It’s a free ride for impaired drivers and their vehicles to somewhere safe within 10 miles. This service is available for AAA members and non-members.
“We want everyone to have a safe Memorial Day weekend, and we urge travelers to make arrangements for safe transportation and to avoid driving impaired,” said Matt Nasworthy, Florida public affairs director, in a prepared statement. “Tow to Go is a lifesaving resource for people who need a secure way to get home without putting someone’s life at risk.”
To request a “Tow to Go,” call 855-286-9246
Here in Cape Coral, Master Sgt. Brad Chenault, Special Operations Bureau and Traffic for the Cape Coral Police Department, says wearing your seat belt and staying aware on the road are vital during the increased travel over the weekend.
“As the national ‘Click It or Ticket’ campaign is in full swing, the Cape Coral Police Department will actively be looking for motorists not wearing seat belts. So if you choose to ignore Florida’s seat belt law, you can expect to receive a ticket as a costly reminder if you are stopped by an officer,” Chenault said.
The Florida Highway Patrol is also in the midst of the “Click It or Ticket” campaign.
“Our Florida Sheriffs are committed to protecting and ensuring the safety of the citizens that we proudly serve. The ‘Click it or Ticket’ initiative is an outstanding way or reminding our citizens to protect those they love by insisting they wear seat belts. On behalf of our Florida Sheriffs, I proudly endorse this Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles initiative,” stated Sheriff Mike Adkinson, President of the Florida Sheriffs Association in a written statement.
Other advice Chenault gives to motorists, especially with the holiday, is to not drink and drive.
“Even one alcoholic drink can reduce you abilities and impair your judgement while operating a motor vehicle.”
Texting and driving, or just taking your eyes off the road in general, can be a deadly and needless decision.
“Distracted driving will greatly increase the risk of crashes, injuries and property damage while operating a motor vehicle -don’t text and drive!” Chenault emphasized.
“Also, eating and reaching for things in the vehicle, floorboard or back seat can lead to disaster. Turn down your music, hearing sirens from emergency vehicles is an important warning to drive cautiously.”
Lastly, Chenault advises drivers to be friendly towards one another on the road.
“Be courteous, because of the volume of vehicles on the road, you are bound to run into a few traffic jams, be cut off, or be forced to stop short – remain calm and courteous – don’t let other drivers ruin your holiday,” he said.