Roads will be busy for Memorial Day travel

05/21/2014 6:34 PM

05/21/2014 10:47 PM

If you’re planning to go somewhere this Memorial Day weekend, you’ll be joining a near-record number of fellow travelers.

AAA is projecting the number of California travelers will be the highest since the start of the last recession. Nearly 4.3 million Californians plan on traveling 50 miles or more over the three-day weekend, up 1.8 percent from last year, according to AAA’s recent travel survey.

“Californians are hitting the roads and planning their getaways for the official summer travel kick-off,” said Pablo O’Brien, vice president of travel products for AAA Northern California. He attributed the increased traffic to the “economic upturn,” which has boosted consumer confidence and spending.

Ashley Wood will be among those traveling a bit closer to home. She said in a post on the Merced Sun-Star’s Facebook page that she plans to spend the weekend camping at Lake McSwain.

Wood should have a great weekend for camping by the lake, with highs in the Merced area expected to hit the mid- to upper 90s, according to the National Weather Service. Sunday will be the hottest day, with the temperature topping out at about 97 before dropping about five degrees for Memorial Day.

AAA projects that more than 3.5 million Californians will drive to their destinations, more than 400,000 will fly and nearly 300,000 will travel by other modes of transportation, including rail, bus and cruise ship. Nationally, AAA projects that more 36 million people will journey 50 miles or more during the Memorial Day weekend, a 1.5 percent increase over last year.

The California Highway Patrol is warning drivers that officers will be out in force from Friday evening through Monday. It’s one of the CHP’s maximum enforcement periods. Sixty people died in accidents on California roads over the Memorial Day weekend last year, a 60 percent increase from 2012, the CHP said in a news release.

“We encourage the public to put measures in place ahead of time to help make their road trip safe and enjoyable,” Commissioner Joe Farrow said. “Leave early and allow for additional traffic delays, eliminate distractions behind the wheel, buckle up, and always designate a sober driver.”

Falling gas prices are helping encourage people to hit the road. According to AAA, the average price for a gallon of unleaded gas in Merced on Wednesday was $4.148. That’s down three cents from a week ago, but still about a dime higher than this time last year.

For Araceli Sali Red, it’s still too pricey.

“I can’t afford to go anywhere with my daughter on the weekends because I have to save my gas for work,” Red said on Facebook. “Getting paid minimum wage doesn’t help matters either. I work an hour and that won’t get me two gallons of gas. It’s hard, so extra fun is out of the question for us.”

But Red said she and her daughter do not plan to sit around bored.

“We’ll spend our three-day weekend like we always do,” she said, “cleaning the yard and watching a movie together.”

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