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Heavy traffic expected for Memorial Day holiday

By Lauren Johnson

Experts are expecting this Memorial Day weekend to be among the most traveled in history.

“It’s going to be the second biggest Memorial Day travel we’ve ever seen,” said Clay Ingram, AAA spokesperson. “It’s going to be really busy, and we’re going to have almost 43 million people driving a distance of 50 miles or more this holiday weekend.”

With a 3.6 percent increase from last year, 1.5 million additional people will be hitting the road.

“The natural increase from one year to the next for a travel holiday is about 1 percent. If we have 2% that’s pretty significant, and this year it’s more than 3.5 percent, which is a pretty big number,” Ingram said.

The reason behind this increase in vacationers is a combination of things, Ingram said.

“The unemployment is pretty low; we’ve had growth in the average income for families, and people are willing to spend a little more money on vacation this time around,” Ingram said.

Other factors include gas prices, and Alabama is tied for the lowest prices in the country along with South Carolina, Louisiana, and Mississippi. The state average price for gas in Alabama is $2.46 while the national average is $2.85.

“So far this year, our gas prices have been very close to what they were this time last year, which was $2.62,” said Ingram.

Ingram said the free AAA phone app will find the best gas prices in the area to help plan gas prices for trips around the country.

“It’s one of our public service programs,” Ingram explained. “It does a lot of cool things, one being a fuel price finder. It just uses the GPS function in your phone and will tell you the prices of gas stations in your general vicinity. It’s easy to use and it will help you find the cheapest gas.”

For those who are planning to travel this holiday weekend, Ingram strongly advises to get an early start. “If you wait until mid to late day, there’s going to be a lot more cars on the road, especially on Monday evening when everyone is heading home. The return trip will be the busiest time.”

Before getting on the road, Ingram also recommends getting vehicles checked by a certified technician, padding travel time schedules, and minimizing distractions for the driver. It’s important to check fluid levels, tire pressure, the air filter and battery to prevent ending up on the side of the road, Ingram said.

“It’s going to take you longer for you to get to your destination than it normally would,” Ingram said. “So if you add extra time, you can relax. It will take the stress out of the trip, preventing road rage and aggressive driving, which actually will save more money by conserving gas.”

It is also important to limit the distractions of the driver and let the person in the passenger seat handle everything else. “It’s really crucial that the driver keeps his or her focus on the road at all times. There’s going to be a lot more cars on the road and they’re going to be closer to you, so your margin of error is going to be less, and your reaction time is going to be less,” Ingram stated.

The Alabama Department of Transportation also stresses safety on the road reminding drivers to keep their eyes on the road, buckle up, and slow down.

Although ALDOT construction work zones will not be active during the holiday, work zone materials along the road and reduced speed limits will be in effect in many areas. Drivers taking to Alabama roads for the holiday should allow extra time to reach their destination.

For more information on Alabama traffic road condition information, including live traffic camera feeds go to www.ALGOtraffic.com or by downloading the ALGO Traffic app, and for other updates and detours go to www.5920bridge.com.