Memorial Day Travel: AAA advises travelers to be prepared for jam-packed highways

AAA LogoAAA projects just over one million Virginians, (1,061, 134) will help make up the 37.2 million travelers, nationwide, who will journey 50 miles or more from home during the Memorial Day holiday weekend.

The 2015 projection is an increase of 4.2 percent over the number of Virginians who traveled in 2014 and the highest travel volume for the holiday in 10 years (since 2005).  The Old Dominion’s lowest gas prices in five years for the holiday have prompted higher travel numbers.

 

Travel by the Numbers

Of the over one million travelers, ninety percent of Virginian’s (952,358) will travel by automobile, an increase of 4.8 percent over last Memorial Day. Holiday air travel is expected to increase 1.8 percent to 77,491 passengers with average airfares for the top 40 domestic flight routes coming in two percent cheaper this year, falling to $222.  This year’s travelers will encounter slightly higher average daily car rental rates, up $19 from 2014.  Three Diamond hotels will cost seven percent more, averaging $182. The Memorial Day holiday travel period is defined as Thursday, May 21 to Monday, May 25.

 

Gas Price Impact

AAA predicts Virginia travelers will pay the cheapest Memorial Day gas prices in five years. As of May 19, Virginia gas prices were $2.48 per gallon on average, exactly $1.00 lower than the average price for Memorial Day last year, and the lowest since Memorial Day 2009 when prices were $2.33.

Gas prices alone have not historically been considered a primary factor in whether to travel, but more importantly, was the impact of fuel costs on the overall family budget and what discretionary funds were left for leisure activities, such as travel. The sharp fall in fuel costs, however, have resulted in higher disposable income. More discretionary funds, a strong employment market and increased consumer optimism are the major factors contributing to the strong Memorial Day travel forecast. “Fluctuating gas prices had little impact on Virginians’ decision to travel in the past. This year is a different story, however, as gas prices hit a five year holiday low and prompted more holiday celebrations away from home,” said Martha Meade, AAA Mid-Atlantic’s Manager of Public and Government Affairs.

 

Virginia Ranked As Bicycle Friendly – Safety Encouraged

The League of American Bicyclists recently ranked Virginia as 13th in its list of top bike friendly states  for 2015. Richmond in particular, has also ranked high as a region, receiving one of 55 awards in the nation (2014) for being bike friendly. In addition, Richmond is likely to see an influx of travelers this summer, as the city was ranked as the ‘most popular American city to visit this summer’ , according to a recent article in the Richmond Times Dispatch.  With the UCI world championships coming to the commonwealth in the fall, and new bike trails in Virginia, enthusiasm for cycling is strong.

AAA urges cyclists and motorists across the Commonwealth to exercise caution and obey all laws when sharing the road.

 

Interesting bike laws in Virginia – Did you know?

  • The three feet rule: Any driver of any vehicle overtaking a bicycle, electric personal assistive mobility device, electric power-assisted bicycle, moped, animal, or animal-drawn vehicle proceeding in the same direction shall pass at a reasonable speed at least three feet to the left of the overtaken bicycle.
  • No earphones allowed: It shall be unlawful for any person to operate a motor vehicle, bicycle, electric personal assistive mobility device, electric power-assisted bicycle, or moped on the highways in the Commonwealth while using earphones on or in both ears.
  • Headlights required: Every bicycle, electric personal assistive mobility device, electric power-assisted bicycle, and moped when in use between sunset and sunrise shall be equipped with a headlight on the front emitting a white light visible in clear weather from a distance of at least 500 feet to the front and a red reflector visible from a distance of at least 600 feet to the rear when directly in front of lawful lower beams of headlights on a motor vehicle.

Additional bike laws and information can be found on the VDOT website.

For those taking to the trails and/or packing up bikes for their journey to the beach or camping, it is important to prepare. Know the rules of the road and if you have no previous experience using a bike rack, be sure to follow vital manufacturer’s instructions. Most vehicles can accommodate a trunk, hitch or roof rack for bike transport.  Not all racks are suited for all cars thus it is important to determine which rack is appropriate for your car and to never exceed the rack’s weight-carrying capacity.  If you need help, visit your local bike shop to make sure your rack is safe. Once the bike rack is installed, motorists are advised to double check that it is tight at each gas or rest stop along the way. Consider installing a top tube onto a ladies bike for transporting it as it will help make it more stable and easier to secure to the rack.

 

Bicycle Coverage Benefit to Members

For over a hundred years, AAA Mid-Atlantic has been rescuing motorists stranded at the roadside.  As of May 15, 2015, not only can motorists call AAA Mid-Atlantic for assistance with their vehicle, but now cyclists can also call for assistance.  AAA Mid-Atlantic’s trusted roadside service for bicyclists are available in the Mid-Atlantic territory, which includes Virginia, Maryland, District of Columbia, Delaware, Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

 

AAA Projection Details

AAA’s projections are based on economic forecasting and research by IHS Global Insight. The Colorado-based business information provider teamed with AAA in 2009 to jointly analyze travel trends during major holidays. AAA has been reporting on holiday travel trends for more than two decades. The complete AAA/IHS Global Insight 2015 Memorial Day Travel Forecast can be found here.

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