Today is the start of the summer season as more than 1.34 million Ohioans are estimated to travel somewhere for the Memorial Day weekend.
Nationally, AAA is projecting that 36.1 Americans will travel at least 50 miles from home during the holiday weekend. This is up 1.5 percent from the 35.1 million people who travelled during the holiday weekend in 2013. AAA defines the holiday weekend from today through Monday.
Kimberly Schwind, AAA Ohio spokeswoman, said that total is about 0.6 percent higher than the 2013 Memorial Day weekend. She said AAA is projecting another 73,000 Ohioans will be travelling somewhere by air, which is 3.8 percent more than last year.
“People are getting more confident in the economy and are more willing to travel more,” Schwind said. “The harsh winter is also another reason why people are travelling for Memorial Day weekend.”
Overall, AAA is predicting this Memorial Day weekend will hit a new post-recession high for travellers.
She also said travellers should check various websites along their travel route for construction zones and potential detours and encouraged motorists to give themselves plenty of time to reach their destination.
Cindy Antrican, a spokeswoman for AAA in Dayton, said the Miami Valley saw gas prices spike due to increased demand over the Mother’s Day weekend and said she expects to see similar spikes again during the Memorial Day weekend.
“Gas prices are coming down some,” she said. “AAA predicts the price of a gallon of gas will be in the $3.60 to $3.80 range.”
She said in the Miami Valley between Jan.1 and May 16, the price of gas is about 3 cents less a gallon than it was last year.
“Gas prices won’t stop people from travelling,” Antrican said. “They’ll cut back on other things on the trip such food, shopping and hotel costs, but they are going to go.”
Antrican said the top travel and /or vacation destinations for people who live in southwest Ohio are Florida’s west coast beaches as well as Walt Disney World in eastern Florida.
“People here just love (Florida’s) west coast,” she said.
Other top destinations for travellers from southwest Ohio include: Hilton Head Island, S.C.; Charleston, S.C.; Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge/Great Smoky Mountains in Tennessee; and all National Parks across the nation.
Patrick DeHaan, an analyst with GasBuddy.com, said this year “is a tough one to predict.”
“We may see another price hike,” he said. “It’s really a toss up.”
He said he wouldn’t be surprised if gas prices are increased today. So far in 2014, gas prices have increased 17 times in the Cincinnati/Dayton area.
While some gas stations are charging in the $3.40 a gallon range, DeHaan said a good price this weekend will be between $3.52 and $3.55 a gallon.
Antrican found the increase in air travel to be interesting and believes this year’s brutal winter is part of the reason for the increase this year
Those traveling by air are seeing the average round trip fare going from $215 last year to about $227 this year, a 6 percent increase, she said.
“Give yourself plenty of time and expect long lines to get through security at the airport,” she said.
Terry Slaybaugh, Dayton’s director of aviation, said he didn’t anticipate any problems for people travelling by air from the Dayton-Cox International Airport.
“Most flights are generally full and the airlines are projecting that this will be a busy summer,” Slaybaugh said. “We expect the airport to be very busy during the holiday weekend.”
Those travelling cars and trucks to their destinations will see an increase in the number of Ohio Highway Patrol troopers patrolling the interstate and other state highways this weekend.
Sgt. Vincent Shirey, patrol spokesman, said all available troopers will be on the road throughout the holiday weekend.
Shirey did not have the statistics for the 2013 Memorial Day weekend, but said the 2012 Memorial Day weekend ranked first for the number of fatal crashes involving an impaired driver.
He said the increased number of troopers will be focusing on aggressive drivers as well as other violations such as speed, seat belt, distracting driving, following too closely, going left of center and OVI.
Shirey said troopers will be continuing its Click it or Ticket seat belt campaign. He said Ohio troopers are working with state police organizations along Interstate 75 to enforce seat belt laws.
In 2013, there were 15 fatal crashes throughout Ohio over the Memorial Day weekend, Shirey said. Eight of those fatal crashes were caused by impaired driving and that 60 percent of Ohioans who died as a result of a fatal crash were not wearing seat belts, he said.
“We want to diffuse these types of behaviors,” he said.
Shirey said the increased number of troopers are not on duty just to write tickets. He said troopers want to decrease the number of visits at 2 a.m. to notify the next of kin of a loved one who died in a fatal crash.
He said 2013 was the safest year for Ohioans on the road and 2014 may beat last year’s statistics.
By Ed Richter - Journal-News, Hamilton, Ohio (MCT)
©2014 the Journal-News (Hamilton, Ohio)
Visit the Journal-News (Hamilton, Ohio) at www.journal-news.com
Distributed by MCT Information Services