The American Automobile Association (AAA) has predicted an increase in the number of Americans taking to the roads this Labor Day weekend. Despite high gasoline prices, the association estimates that the number of Americans who will drive 50 miles or more over the holiday weekend, which it defines as August 29 through September 2, will reach 34.1 million this year. That’s a 4.2 percent increase compared with last year.
The National Safety Council has also predicted an increase in traffic-related fatalities. The council is forecasting that highway deaths could reach 394. That’s up nearly 6 percent compared with last year, but 22 percent less than in 2007 when fatalities reached 508.
AAA estimates that approximately 85 percent of the total U.S. population will take to the roads this weekend. That’s a 4.3 percent over last year. Upwards of 2.6 million Americans are expected to fly to and from their Labor Day holiday destinations.
While more Americans will be traveling this year, the average round-trip distance is expected to be 594 miles compared to 626 miles in 2012. The average cost of travel this Labor Day weekend is expected to reach $804, up seven percent compared with last year.
In a statement released last week, AAA President and CEO Robert L. Darbelnet said, “AAA is forecasting a lift in Labor Day travel this year due to the increasingly positive economic outlook and optimism in the housing market. For many Americans, their home is also their biggest asset, as home prices improve in many parts of the country more families are feeling comfortable about traveling this Labor Day holiday.”
AAA is attributing the increase in holiday travel in part to a 2.7 percent decrease in fuel prices compared with the same weekend in 2012. Last year the national average for a gallon of gasoline stood at $3.83, which was the highest ever reported for Labor Day. AAA also notes that airfares have risen significantly in recent months, which is encouraging many Americans to take to the highways instead of the skies.
In addition to an increase in fatalities, the increase in highway travelers is expected to result in 42,200 vehicular accidents resulting in injuries sufficient to require medical treatment.
The AAA is urging holiday travelers to buckle up, observe speed limits, abstain from drinking and texting while driving and ensure that children are properly secured in age- and size-appropriate safety seats. The association estimates that observing these simple precautions could reduce the holiday weekend death toll by 143.