Expect a lot of traffic for Memorial Day

Published 11:56 am Wednesday, May 20, 2015

An estimated 1,029,500 North Carolina and 475,500 South Carolina motorists are expected to celebrate this Memorial Day weekend with a road trip – the highest numbers for both states in 10 years. A strong economy and low gas prices are driving the increase in holiday travel, especially by automobile, according to AAA Carolinas.

The average price for a gallon of gas in North Carolina is $2.55, while South Carolina’s average is $2.40 — the lowest prices on Memorial Day since 2009. While gas prices have increased by 20 cents in a month, motorists in North Carolina are still paying $1.07 less than they were a year ago, while South Carolinians are saving $1.06.

Asheville has North Carolina’s highest average gas price at $2.61 and the cheapest in the state is in Boone at $2.46. Myrtle Beach has South Carolina’s highest average price at $2.44 and the cheapest can be found in Spartanburg at $2.32.

Travelers heading south will find prices in Georgia and Florida in the $2.62 range; those heading north will find prices around $2.48 in Virginia, and those travelling west will find Tennessee prices around $2.47.

“Following a harsh winter, many Carolinians are kicking off the summer driving season with a vacation getaway,” said David E. Parsons, president and CEO of AAA Carolinas. “With more Memorial Day travelers on the road, it’s even more important to eliminate distractions behind the wheel. Stay off your phone and give yourself extra time to reach your destination.”

Nearly 1,146,000 North Carolinians, and about 538,000 South Carolinians are expected to travel more than 50 miles from home, with the top driving destinations Charleston, Orlando, Myrtle Beach and Pigeon Forge.

The Memorial Day holiday shows a 2.5 percent increase over last year in air travel. About 82,800 North Carolinians will fly to their destinations while 33,100 South Carolina vacationers will travel by air. The top three air destinations this month have been Orlando, Baltimore and Seattle, followed by Anchorage and Vancouver.

Travel by other modes of transportation is expected to decrease by 3.6 percent this weekend, with 34,600 North Carolina vacationers and 31,600 South Carolinians travelling on cruises, trains and buses.

The average nightly stay in a AAA Two Diamond hotel is 16 percent higher this year at $144 per night, while AAA Three Diamond hotels will cost 7 percent  more, averaging $182.

AAA Carolinas expects to help approximately 13,000 motorists on the roadside this holiday weekend, with the primary reasons being dead batteries, flat tires and lockouts.

The most congested times for travel are expected to be Friday afternoon and evening — with traffic increasing earlier in the day than usual — as well as Monday evening, as travelers head back home.

Memorial Day weekend marks the beginning of the “100 deadliest days” for teen drivers, with seven of the 10 most deadly days occurring between Memorial Day and Labor Day, according to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.

One of the biggest contributing factors in traffic deaths involving teen drivers is the number of other teen passengers in the car. Fatal crash rates for 16- to 19-year olds increase five times when two or more teen passengers are present. AAA recommends parents discuss these dangers and other distraction issues including cell phone use while driving, with their teens.

For the latest on construction delays, go to the North Carolina Department of Transportation website, www.NCDOT.gov. Click on Travel & Maps and then on the Traveler Information Management System for up-to-date traffic information related to closed travel lanes, accidents or expected congestion due to sporting events, such as Charlotte Motor Speedway’s Coca-Cola 600 race this weekend.

South Carolina will suspend construction projects along interstates and high volume multilane primary routes throughout the holiday weekend.

The five-day Memorial Day holiday travel period is defined as Thursday, May 21 through Monday, May 25. Survey data is taken from AAA’s Leisure Travel Index, AAA/HIS Global Insight holiday travel forecast and AAA Carolinas data.

To estimate fuel costs, travelers can go to www.fuelcostcalculator.com to input starting city, destination, and the make and model of their car.

The free AAA Mobile app for iPhone and Android devices uses GPS navigation to help travelers map a route, find updated gas prices, view nearby member discounts and access AAA Roadside Assistance.