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Labor Day travel to decrease overall

AAA projects a slight decrease in the number of Americans traveling during the Labor Day holiday weekend. Nearly 34.38 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more from home this Labor Day holiday weekend, down 0.9 percent, or almost 320,000 Americans, from the 34.7 million who traveled last year. This year marks the first decline in Labor Day holiday travel since 2006.

“While we are seeing a drop in travel, it is a small improvement over the Fourth of July holiday when we saw a drop of 1.3 percent. This may show that travelers are starting to respond to the recent drop in gasoline prices,” said AAA Alabama spokesperson, Clay Ingram. “People this holiday also seem to be traveling differently with more travelers interested in going by train, bus and some of the traditionally lesser used transportation modes.”

Approximately 28.64 million Americans (more than 83% of all holiday travelers) expect to travel by automobile, a 1.1 percent decrease from the 28.97 million people who drove to their holiday destinations last year.

The national average for self-serve regular gasoline is $3.67 per gallon. Americans traveling by automobile will encounter gasoline prices about 92 cents more than this time last year. The Alabama state average has dropped to $3.53 per gallon in recent weeks, but that price is still 94 cents more than a year ago.

Almost 3.96 million Americans (11.5 percent of holiday travelers) intend to travel by airplane, a 4.5 percent decrease from the 4.14 million people who flew last year.

A projected 1.8 million Americans (5 percent of holiday travelers) plan to travel by train, bus or other mode of transportation. That represents an increase of 12.5 percent (or 200,000 travelers) more than the 1.6 million who traveled by a mode other than automobile or airplane last year.

Because of this, Alabama’s state troopers are gearing up for the last major travel period of the summer season. Department of Public Safety Director Col. J. Christopher Murphy said all available troopers will be on duty, working to ensure the safety of motorists during the Labor Day holiday.

“Alabama’s troopers, along with our local law enforcement partners, have brought about positive changes in driver behavior and significantly reduced the number of crashes, deaths and injuries on Alabama’s roadways,” Murphy said. He said year-to-date trooper-reported traffic deaths have declined by 103 – a 20 percent reduction from the preceding year. “During this upcoming holiday weekend, we plan to continue this concerted effort to save lives.”

Murphy said troopers, along with local and county law enforcement and traffic safety agencies throughout Alabama, will be targeting impaired drivers as part of the national safety enforcement blitz – “Drunk Driving. Over the Limit. Under Arrest.” The enforcement and public awareness effort began last week and will continue through Labor Day, Sept. 1.

He noted that at least four – more than half – of the seven traffic deaths reported last year in Alabama during the 78-hour Labor Day holiday were alcohol related.

Murphy said “Task Force Zero” – trooper teams that target impaired drivers – will be working during the holiday weekend, using the department’s new BAT Mobiles at selected checkpoints. The BAT Mobiles, vehicles equipped with specialized breath-testing equipment, allow on-scene processing of impaired drivers. DPS purchased the vehicles with grants awarded by Gov. Bob Riley and administered by the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs. Equipment for the vehicles was provided by the Department of Forensic Sciences.

Troopers also plan to target violations that contribute to traffic crashes, including speeding, following too closely, improper passing and failure to signal. Overtime funding provided by the Alabama Department of Transportation and ADECA will allow additional troopers to patrol throughout the holiday period.

The greatest number of Labor Day holiday weekend automobile travelers will originate in the West with 7.2 million, followed by the Southeast with 6.6 million; Midwest, 5.5 million; Northeast, 4.8 million; and Great Lakes, 4.5 million.

The West is expected to produce the largest number of air travelers with 1.5 million, followed by the Southeast with 1.3 million; Northeast, 500,000; Great Lakes, 400,000; and Midwest, 300,000.

The AAA Fuel Gauge Report Web site (www.aaafuelgaugereport.com) lists average daily prices for the nation, all 50 states and more than 250 localities for all grades of gasoline.