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Memorial Day weekend travel traffic expected to be heavy

By CJ HADDAD - | May 26, 2022

As Memorial Day marks the unofficial start to summer, roadways and means of travel across the country, and here in Florida, are expected to boom.

AAA – The Auto Club Group, is estimating 39.2 million people will venture 50 miles or more from home throughout the holiday weekend. That total would be an increase of 8.3% from 2021, and nearly matching up with numbers seen in 2017.

“Memorial Day is always a good predictor of what’s to come for summer travel,” said Paula Twidale, senior vice president of AAA Travel, in a statement. “Based on our projections, summer travel isn’t just heating up, it will be on fire. People are overdue for a vacation and they are looking to catch up on some much-needed R&R in the coming months.”

Of the nearly 40 million expected to travel, 34.9 million will take to the roads, 3.01 million to the skies (25% increase from 2021), and 1.33 million via bus, train, or cruise. In 2021, the total number of Memorial Day travelers was 36.2 million.

“Air travel has faced several challenges since the beginning of the year,” continued Twidale. “With the type of volume we anticipate, we continue to recommend the safety net of a travel agent and travel insurance. Both are a lifesaver if something unexpectedly derails your travel plans.”

For those traveling via car, AAA has activated its “Tow to Go” for the holiday weekend; providing safe transportation for impaired drivers and their vehicles.

AAA Tow to Go has removed more than 25,000 impaired drivers from the road. When called, a tow truck transports the would-be impaired driver and their vehicle to a safe location within a 10-mile radius. The service is free, yet AAA asks that it be treated as a backup plan. The service will be provided from 6 p.m. Friday to 6 a.m. Tuesday, May 31.

Approximately one-third of all traffic crash fatalities in the United States involve drunk drivers. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 28 people in the United States die in drunk-driving crashes every day — that’s one person every 52 minutes.

“Driving impaired is not worth the risk. It endangers you and the lives of everyone else on the roadway,” said AAA spokesperson Mark Jenkins in a statement. “AAA urges people to identify a safe ride home before they party, but know that Tow to Go is available as a last resort.”

Officials said this year’s forecast marks the second-highest single-year increase in travelers since 2010 (2021 was the highest), bringing volumes almost in line with pre-pandemic levels. Despite historic gas prices (Florida set a record high last week with the average gallon at $4.49 state-wide), a higher number of travelers are opting for air and other modes of travel than in previous years. Share of car travel fell from 92.1% last year to 88.9% this year, a slight indication that higher prices at the pump are having an impact on how people choose to travel this Memorial Day. Regardless of which mode they choose, travelers should prepare for a busy holiday weekend.

“Drivers are dealing with unprecedented pain at the pump and things could soon get worse before they get better,” Jenkins stated in a May 16 release. “We saw more big gains in the gasoline futures market late last week, which could trickle down to yet another 10-20 cent jump at the pump in the near future.”

AAA reminds travelers to always be prepared by getting a full vehicle inspection before long road trips and remembering essential items. Orlando is the top U.S. destination this Memorial Day weekend, and roads will be busy in the Sunshine State.

INRIX predicts drivers will encounter the longest travel delays before the holiday weekend, particularly during the afternoons on May 26 and May 27. Drivers in major metros could experience double the travel times compared to a normal trip.

“Even with a significant increase in gas prices, we expect a large jump in holiday driving compared to the last few years”, said Bob Pishue, transportation analyst for INRIX in a statement. “Drivers should expect congestion on major roadways around big cities and popular destinations. Knowing when and where congestion will build can help drivers avoid the stress of sitting in traffic.”

–Connect with this reporter on Twitter:@haddad_cj