Today starts holiday weekend

Published 12:00 am Friday, August 30, 2013

School is back in session, but families will get one last chance for an extended summer weekend thanks to the Labor Day holiday Monday and a post-recession record high is expected to take advantage of the day off, according to numbers projections released by AAA Travel.

According to predictions from the motoring and leisure travel organization, 34.1 million Americans are expected to travel at least 50 miles from their homes during the Labor Day holiday weekend, a 4.2 percent increase from last year.

Officials with AAA say the uptick in travel expectations is the result of a better economic situation in the U.S.

“AAA is forecasting a lift in Labor Day travel this year due to the increasingly positive economic outlook and optimism in the housing market,” said Clay Ingram, AAA Alabama spokesperson. “For many Americans, their home is also their biggest asset; as home prices improve in many parts of the country, more families are feeling comfortable about traveling this Labor Day holiday.”

Other predictions from AAA for this year’s Labor Day holiday include:

• A total of 85 percent of travelers (29.2 million) to travel by automobile, an increase of 4.3 percent from 28 million last year;

• The largest share of travelers (46 percent) will depart on Friday, Aug. 30, while Monday, Sept. 2, is the most popular date of return for holiday trips, with 43 percent planning to return that day;

• The average person is expected to travel a round-trip distance of 594 miles and spend $804.

Ingram said travelers should be mindful of the expected increase of traffic on roadways, as well as an increase in law enforcement.

“AAA reminds drivers, as they head out for the holiday, that safety should remain top of mind. It is important to remain distraction-free and keep their mind on the task of driving.”

Alabama Department of Public Safety Director Hugh B. McCall said Alabama state troopers will be partnering with other agencies and will be out in force over the Labor Day weekend, with an increased presence on state roadways.

“Partnering with other law enforcement agencies is important, but it is our partnership with motorists that is key to a successful enforcement campaign and safe holiday weekend,” McCall said. He added that Alabamians are encouraged to be part of the safety initiative by agreeing not to drive if they have been drinking alcohol and to insist loved ones do the same. McCall said it also is important to ensure everyone in the vehicle is buckled up each and every time.

According to AAA, while travel by all modes of transportation is expected to go up this weekend, automobiles are expected to remain the dominant form of travel, with gas prices not likely to be a large factor, after last year’s record high of $3.83 per gallon.

Officials with AAA say approximately 29.2 million people (85 percent) plan to drive to their destination, an increase of 4.3 percent from last year. As of mid-August, gas prices were, on average, down 2.7 percent per gallon compared to the same time last year. The current national average price for a gallon of regular gas is $3.54, which is 18 cents lower than last year.  The current Alabama average price for a gallon of regular gas is $3.30, which is 21 cents lower than last year.

AAA forecasts gas prices to remain less expensive than last year based on current trends through the middle of August, but say there remains the potential for late-summer hurricanes and refinery problems that could send prices higher.

McCall said law enforcement will be ready for the expected traffic increase during this year’s Labor Day holiday travel period, which will begin at 6 p.m. Friday and run through midnight Monday. Troopers, however, will continue their extra enforcement efforts through midnight Tuesday.