The first true holiday of summer is fast-approaching, and agencies are already predicting more Carolinians will travel this Memorial Day weekend than last year despite the highest gas prices since 2014.
An estimated 593,250 South Carolina …
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An estimated 593,250 South Carolina residents and 1.26 million from North Carolina are expected to travel for the holiday on the last weekend of May, the highest volume of travel from Carolina residents since 2005 and an increase of 5 percent from last year, according to AAA Carolinas.
"A strong economy and growing consumer confidence are giving Carolinians the motivation they need to kick off what we expect to be a busy summer travel season with a Memorial Day getaway," said Tiffany Wright, AAA Carolinas spokeswoman, in a news release.
The Memorial Day holiday travel period is defined as Thursday, May 24, through Monday, May 28.
AAA Carolinas and INRIX is predicting the greatest amount of congestion along roadways will be between that Thursday and Friday in the late afternoon as commuters leave work early and mix with holiday travelers.
The 88 percent of travelers choosing to drive to their vacation destination, however far, will pay the most expensive Memorial Day gas prices since 2014, according to AAA Carolinas. As of Wednesday, gas prices averaged $2.61 in South Carolina, a 56-cent increase over last year's holiday price due to "expensive crude oil, record gasoline demand and shrinking global supply." That is still below the national average of $2.89.
In Sumter County, average prices were among the lowest at $2.55, while Clarendon County's average of $2.72 was the second-highest in the state. Last year, Sumter's average gas price was $2.
With more people on the roads during this time, Memorial Day weekend marks the beginning of the "100 Deadliest Days," the period when teen traffic deaths historically rise, according to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.
Last year, there were 1,008 collisions resulting in 501 injuries and 12 fatalities in South Carolina, according to the foundation.
With busy roadways being almost a guarantee this weekend, Sumter County Sheriff Anthony Dennis offered some safety tips for traveling:
- Be well-rested and alert, observe the speed limit and follow the rules of the road;
- If you plan on drinking alcohol, designate a driver who won't drink or make sure you can call a taxi or ride-share app;
- Give your full attention to the road, avoiding distractions such as cellphones;
- Use caution in work zones;
- Don't follow other vehicles too closely;
- Clean your vehicle's lights and windows to help you see, especially at night;
- Turn on your headlights as dusk approaches or during inclement weather;
- Don't let your vehicle's gas tank get too low;
- If you have car trouble, pull over as far off the road as possible;
- Let someone know where you are going, your route and when you expect to get there. If your car gets stuck along the way, help can be sent along the predetermined route
Dennis mentioned road rage as a particular danger to motorists.
"As the temperatures go higher, tempers grow shorter, and that can lead to dangerous situations on the highways," he said.
Some tips to avoiding road rage or those showcasing it include:
- Display common courtesy. If someone wants to go around you, let them. It's not worth risking getting into an accident or worse with a driver displaying bad behavior
- Fatigue can also be a factor. As drivers get tired, tempers often flare up more easily
- Never argue with another driver
- Call 911 if you notice a dangerous driver such as someone weaving in and out of traffic. Give them your location and direction of travel and a description of the driver's car
"Other factors that can contribute to road rage include driving while texting or talking on your telephone; leaving your high beams on as you meet a vehicle in the oncoming lane or when you overtake a slower vehicle ahead of you; or not using a turn signal when you change lanes or turn," Dennis said.
Dennis warned against trying to video the unsafe driver unless a passenger can discretely.
"If someone wants to get there a half-minute ahead of you," he said, "let them."
While road trippers will pay higher gas prices, travelers can expect relief in their wallets when paying for airfare, car rentals and most mid-range hotels.
According to AAA's Leisure Travel Index, airfares are 7 percent lower than last Memorial Day, landing an average price of $168 for a round-trip flight along the top 40 domestic routes. At $59, the average daily cost of a rental car is the lowest rate in the past four years and 11 percent cheaper than last year. Travel numbers are not expected to change for Memorial Day weekend, but gas prices likely will or may already have. For the most up-to-date gas prices throughout the Carolinas, visit www.gasprices.aaa.com.
By the numbers
South Carolinians who are expected to drive to their destinations
South Carolinians who are expected to fly to their destinations
South Carolinians who are expected to take other modes of transportation (cruises, trains and buses)
Average gas price in South Carolina
Top Memorial Day travel destinations for Carolinians
1. Myrtle Beach
2. Washington, D.C.
3. Orlando, Florida
4. Asheville, North Carolina
5. St. Augustine, Florida
3. Dominican Republic
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