WASHINGTON, D. C. (Wednesday, August 28, 2019) –– The end is nigh. Of summer, that is. More than 2.4 million people are anticipated to travel Maryland’s bridges, tunnels and roadways over the Labor Day holiday weekend, projects the Maryland Transportation Authority (MDTA). This total represents a 1% increase in holiday traffic volumes compared to last year, notes the MDTA. Given its size, geography and populace, the travel volume will be even higher, in all probability, across Virginia this holiday weekend. Periods of moderate to heavy congestion will most likely occur between noon and 6 p.m. on Friday, August 30, and Monday, September 2, according to the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT).
It’s summer’s last episode on the open road. Don’t let a vehicular break down ruin it. Based on historic trends over the most recent Labor Day Holiday weekends, AAA Mid-Atlantic estimates it will come to the rescue of over 34,000 stranded motorists, including 15,400 in Maryland, Virginia, and the District, during the upcoming Labor Day holiday weekend.
“This has proven a robust summer travel season, and Labor Day will be no exception in all likelihood. Americans bookending summer with road trips will find gas prices this coming weekend that are cheaper than this past Memorial Day and last year’s Labor Day holiday,” said John B. Townsend II, AAA Mid-Atlantic’s Manager of Public and Government Affairs. “During the Memorial Day holiday weekend, we witnessed the second-highest travel volume for that holiday since AAA began tracking holiday travel volume dating back to 2000. During the Fourth of July holiday weekend, America experienced the highest travel volume recorded for the Fourth of July period. Those opting to travel during the Labor Day holiday weekend can expect plenty of company in the skies and plenty of competition along every highway mile marker.”
The 2019 summer leisure travel predictors are the rosiest in years, according to AAA. Bearing testimony, 43 million Americans, including 1,077,600 Washington metro area residents, traveled during the Memorial Day holiday weekend, as AAA projected. Locally, an estimated 960,800 Washington area residents traveled to their Memorial Day holiday destinations by automobile. Nearly 49 million Americans traveled more than 50 miles from home during that the busy Fourth of July holiday travel period, AAA forecast. That tally included 1.2 million people hailing from the Washington metro area, with the vast majority, 1,059,000 residents, traveling by automobile.
What about Labor Day? With nearly 100 million Americans embarking on getaways with family this summer, and with 33% of Americans indicating they would go on at least one additional road trip, if gas prices remained low, which is occurring, odds are millions are packing up their cars for their final summertime excursion this Labor Day. No doubt, it will be shortest Great American road trip of the three summer holidays, notes AAA Mid-Atlantic, given the start of the new school year in many parts of the country, and in many northern Virginia school districts and the District; and the fact that kids will start school the day after Labor Day in Maryland.
“As the summer driving season surceases, many motorists could unfortunately be left stranded, if they haven’t properly prepared their vehicles,” said James Moore, Manager, AAA Mid-Atlantic Car Care Center. “Taking care of your vehicle in advance can reduce the likelihood of breakdowns, as well as the hassle and costs that occur when vehicle upkeep is ignored.”
“Nine out of 10 summer trips (about 91%) are in personal vehicles — such as a car,” explains the Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS). Historically, 7% of summer trips are by air and 2% of summer trips are by train or bus, notes the BTS. Yet millions will fly to their Labor Day holiday destinations. In fact, the airline trade group, Airlines for America (A4A), is forecasting the “busiest Labor Day holiday travel period on record.” An estimated 17.5 million airline passengers will be flying to their Labor Day holiday destinations on U.S. carriers in the period from Wednesday, August 28 to Tuesday, September 3.
In 2014, AAA projected 35 million Americans, including 735,000 Washington area residents, would travel 50 miles or more from home during the Labor Day holiday travel period, with 29.7 million hitting the roads before summer came to a close. That was the final year, AAA officially released a nationwide Labor Day leisure travel forecast. “In 2018, however, we projected as many as 35 million Americans would travel 50 miles or more from home for Labor Day, including 851,000 Washington metro area residents,” said Townsend. “Based on the current state of the economy and the mid-summer swoon in pump prices, and if the past is prologue, we expect to exceed that travel volume during the 2019 Labor Day holiday period.
“More than three out of four (78%) summer trips are 50-249 miles in length,” explains the BTS. For this reason and based on historic holiday data, AAA emergency roadside assistance rescuers will respond to SOS calls from over 8,300 stranded and stalled motorists across in Maryland, 6,000 vehicle operators in Virginia and an estimated 1,100 drivers in the District, projects AAA Mid-Atlantic.
“Labor Day isn’t quite as big a holiday travel period as Memorial Day or the Fourth of July, but that doesn’t mean you should let your guard down when it comes to vehicle maintenance,” said Bruce Jenkins, Manager, Roadside Assistance, AAA Mid-Atlantic Springfield Fleet Depot. “One-third of Americans ignore vehicle maintenance needs. Nothing can deaden a holiday road trip or a vacation like having your vehicle break down. The best way to avoid that unfortunate circumstance is with preventative maintenance.”
The roadways will be busy this holiday weekend. More than 440,000 vehicles will cross the William Preston Lane Jr. Memorial (Bay) Bridge (US 50/301) in the period from between Friday, August 30, and Labor Day itself, Monday, September 2, anticipates the Maryland Transportation Authority (MDTA). Traditionally, Labor Day signals the end of the summer vacation season. Whether planning an end of summer road trip now or later in the fall or continuing a regular commute to work, AAA recommends two fundamental things motorists can do to decrease the likelihood of their vehicle leaving them stranded:
Have your vehicle serviced regularly based on the manufacturer’s recommended maintenance schedule. This is the best way to catch problems before they arise; and
Identify a quality repair shop, and use that facility for all of your vehicle repairs and maintenance. Repeated use of a trustworthy shop allows a motorist to develop a good relationship with the service staff, and allows the repair technicians to get to know the vehicle and make needed service recommendations in a timely manner.
To make sure their vehicles are road-worthy, Labor Day holiday road trippers can either look for a AAA Car Care Insurance & Travel Center in their area or a AAA Approved Auto Repair sign at local auto repair facilities, or search for a nearby AAA Approved shop online at AAA.com/Repair.
In April, AAA forecast the majority of U.S. travelers were planning a summer getaway. All told, two-thirds of leisure travelers (64%) said they planned to take vacations this summer. Even so, 97% of summer trips are to domestic destinations while 3% are to international destinations, explains the BTS. Historically, more people tend to travel for Labor Day when the holiday weekend starts in August, notes AAA Mid-Atlantic. Cheaper gasoline portends robust holiday travel volumes. At $2.58 per gallon nationally and $2.72 in the District, the national and local gas price averages are poised to be potentially the cheapest Labor Day weekend average in three years.
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