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Boost in holiday travel expected

John Charles Robbins Daily Journal Editor

August 31, 2013

AAA Carolinas estimates that the number of travelers will increase by 5 percent this Labor Day weekend, thanks to an improving economy, higher consumer confidence and lower gas prices.


Law enforcement will be out in full force to make sure the holiday weekend is a safe one, and authorities are advising North Carolina drivers to budget extra travel time into their Labor Day weekend travel plans.


The average gas price in North Carolina is down to $3.46 from the summer of high of $3.56, and the average last Labor Day of $3.72. The most expensive gas in the state can be found in Raleigh at $3.52 and the least expensive is in Fayetteville at $3.38.


AAA expects most drivers will travel on Friday and Monday.


“As the economy has steadily improved in the Carolinas, more families will take advantage of the last holiday weekend of the summer,” said David E. Parsons, president and CEO of AAA Carolinas. “Beyond that, gas prices heading into this weekend are the lowest they’ve been for any Labor Day holiday since 2010.”


Since rising to a summer high of $3.56 on July 21, North Carolina gas prices have fallen to $3.46 today — nearly 8 percent lower than the $3.72 average heading into Labor Day weekend last year. For Labor Day 2011, gas prices in North Carolina averaged $3.57 and in 2010 they were $2.58.


Officers across the state will continue to enforce the seasonal “Booze It and Lose It Campaign,” which started Aug. 16 and runs through Labor Day, Sept. 2. Checkpoints are established throughout North Carolina and the number of patrols will be enhanced during the holiday weekend.


“I want to encourage our citizens who are traveling this weekend out of town to drive safely and obey all traffic laws,” said Rockingham Police Chief Billy Kelly. “Seat belt use is crucial to your safety, as well as your family’s.”


Kelly advises building a little extra time into your travel plans.


“Allow plenty of time for your travels and be mindful of the drivers around you. I also want to remind you to properly secure your homes if you are leaving for this Labor Day weekend, as well as securing your vehicles that remain at your home. Let a trusted neighbor know that you are going out of town. If you would like to arrange for a house check and live in the city limits, you may fill out a request at the Rockingham Police Department or online at gorockinghampd.com,” Kelly said.


It won’t just be local police officers patrolling the busy roadways this weekend — state troopers will be on the job, too.


As the summer months meander to a close, the NC State Highway Patrol along with the Wildlife Resources Commission and the Alcohol Law Enforcement Division are reminding you to be safe this holiday weekend.


Troopers, Wildlife Resources Officers and ALE agents will be combining efforts this weekend ensuring that motorists and boaters are safely enjoying the last summer travel holiday weekend. Law enforcement officers will be conducting various driving while impaired checkpoints near parks and water recreation areas across the state.


The “On the Road, On the Water, Don’t Drink and Drive” campaign is a multi-agency initiative that was designed to combine law enforcement resources to ensure that all motorists can safely travel on highway and waterways during the summer months.


Last year, the Highway Patrol investigated 278 fatal collisions and more than 8,500 injury collisions during the summer months. This included 88 fatal collisions and 913 injury collisions due to impaired driving.


Operation “On the Road, On the Water, Don’t Drink and Drive” is focused around three key summer travel holiday weekends; Memorial Day, Fourth of July and Labor Day.


The Labor Day campaign will be begin on Saturday, Aug. 31, and end on Monday, Sept. 2.


Last year, Hurricane Isaac dampened Labor Day travel in the Carolinas, resulting in poor weather and a sharp spike in gas prices that deterred many last-minute travelers. This year, the National Weather Service forecasts a pleasant weekend ahead, with mostly sunny skies and temperatures in the 80s throughout most of the East Coast.


Most construction projects will be suspended for the weekend with some exceptions including U.S. 74 near Laurel Hill which has been reduced to one lane in the westbound direction for bridge work.


For the latest on construction delays, go to the North Carolina Department of Transportation website. 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 special events.


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


AAA Carolinas, an affiliate of the American Automobile Association, is a not-for-profit organization that serves more than 1.8 million members and the public with travel, automobile and insurance services while being an advocate for the safety and security of all travelers.


— Editor John Charles Robbins can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 13, or by email at jrobbins@civitasmedia.com.