ATLANTA – More people are expected to hit the road this Labor Day, good news for a still-sluggish economy.
AAA Travel is predicting 33 million Americans will travel at least 50 miles during the Labor Day weekend, which runs Aug. 30 to Sept. 3. That would be a post-recession high, representing a 2.9 percent increase from the 32.1 million people who traveled during Labor Day weekend last year.
Interestingly, AAA noted this is the third consecutive major holiday with increased travel. Memorial Day and Independence Day also saw more people traveling.
“In the absence of strong economic growth that might fuel a significant boost in travel volume, it is an encouraging sign that Americans continue to prioritize travel,” Bill Sutherland, vice president, AAA Travel Services, said in a news release. “Travel is still within America’s discretionary spending budget.”
When it comes to destinations, Travelocity named Las Vegas, New York City, Orlando, Denver and Seattle as the most popular for this Labor Day.
“Many travelers leverage the extra day off of work to take an extended vacation, making international trips possible,” Courtney Scott, senior editor of Travelocity, said in a news release. “For those people looking for a new destination here at home, small cities and towns are becoming more popular. With their great hotels, restaurants and sights it’s not surprising that more Americans are finding their way to these local secrets.”
Even as gas prices have increased in recent weeks, driving remains the most popular method for traveling this labor Day. The national price for gas is $3.72 per gallon, down 22 cents from its 2012 peak in April, according to AAA, which is predicting 85 percent of holiday travelers – or roughly 28.2 million people – will be driving.
That would be a 3.1 percent over a year ago. Similarly, Enterprise Rent-A-Car reported a 25 percent increase in the number of advance Labor Day reservations.
But, motorists should be careful behind the wheel throughout the holiday. Authorities will be hitting the roads en masse to crackdown on drunken drivers as part of the nationwide “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” campaign coordinated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
“The latest numbers tell us people are not only making poor decisions and drinking and driving – they are getting deeply intoxicated before getting behind the wheel,” NHTSA Administrator David L. Strickland said in a statement.
More than 10,000 police departments nationwide will be participating in the campaign, which includes increased patrols. NHTSA points to new numbers that show 70 percent of fatalities in crashes involving drunken drivers involved drivers with blood alcohol levels of .15 – almost twice the legal limit of .08
“Here in Georgia, we’re trying to reduce this tragic loss of life by getting impaired drivers off our roads,” Governor’s Office of Highway Safety Director Harris Blackwood said in a statement. “We know campaigns like this help reduce drunk driving crashes by as much as 20 percent so we’re using Labor Day to reinforce the zero tolerance policy that exists in Georgia 365 days a year.”