Memorial Day Road Trips Spawn Traffic Headaches, Spate of Fatal Accidents

Ah, road trips… the great American, summer mainstay. Whether you’re heading to the beach, to the mountains, or to somewhere else entirely, you’re all but guaranteed to hit a bit of traffic this Memorial Day.

Despite gas prices surging in Southern California and across the nation, a record number of Americans are expected to hit the highways, railroads, and airports in pursuit of early summer celebration this year—nearly 42 million, in fact. That’s up nearly five percent from last year, and the biggest number in more than a dozen years.

“The highest gas prices since 2014 won’t keep travelers home this Memorial Day weekend,” revealed Michael Blasky, a spokesman for AAA Northern California. Indeed, due to record demand, higher crude oil prices, and a rising global demand, gasoline prices have creeped up in excess of 70 cents per gallon more than they were at this time last year.

Mr. Blasky continued to say, “A strong economy and growing consumer confidence are giving Californians all the motivation they need to kick off what we expect to be a busy summer travel season.”

Across California, an estimated 5.2 million people are expected to hop on a plane or on the road for the upcoming three-day weekend, so extra delays should be anticipated wherever you’re going.

This year AAA partnered with INRIX, a global transportation analytics company to forecast traffic delays and the worst times to leave, according to U.S. metro area. “AAA is projecting that the worst time to leave for the long weekend in the Los Angeles metropolitan area will be during the afternoon and evening hours on Thursday, May 24 and Friday, May 25.”

For SoCal residents, the peak will come between 3:30 PM and 5:30 PM, when travelers and commuters start to mix. The worst delays are anticipated on the following local freeways.

  • U.S. Route 101 East – Up to 47 percent time delay
  • Interstate 5 South – Up to 43 percent time delay
  • Interstate 405 South – Up to 35 percent time delay

If you’re heading further south this year, you can expect extra slowdowns in and around Anaheim: Disneyland clocks in at number seven on America’s list of the most popular travel destinations for Memorial Day weekend. (Who wouldn’t want to spend the unofficial start of summer kicking back with Mickey and Pluto?)

With increased congestion will also come a spate of car crashes.

In 2017, personal finance website ValuePenguin analyzed holiday statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Association. They determined that drivers and passengers are 4 times more likely to die in traffic accidents over Memorial Day weekend versus a regular, non-holiday weekend. “Memorial Day led with an average of 312 fatal accidents per year over the period 2011 to 2015,” noted one reporter from CBS.

With concern over the increase in fatal accidents brought during what should ostensibly be a time of sunbleached fun, there are steps you can take with the family car to minimize your risk. While the the most foolproof preventative measure would be to not go anywhere at all, we understand that that is a hardpressed solution. In light of this, we suggest the following before you hop on the roads this year:

  1. Leave early (or late) to beat the traffic. If you can at all avoid the highway clogs, try your best to do so, but don’t rush either. Not only will it reduce your risk of an accident, but also you stress level. No one should drive angry.
  1. Check the gauges. Of course, you can’t drive without gas—that’s the obvious one. But how are you doing on other liquids? Coolant, oil, and windshield wiper fluid are all just as important.
  1. Batteries, beware. We’ve all heard of kicking the tires, but when’s the last time you “kicked the battery?” That is, have you gotten it checked recently? A bad battery is a great way to get yourself very stranded.
  1. Speaking of tires… give yours a once over. Make sure they’ve got enough air, and that the tire treads aren’t worn below safe working levels. Check out our recent post about tires for tips on what to look out for.
  1. Be prepared, in case you get stranded. An emergency kit is a necessity if you’re traveling long distance. In addition to food and water, every car should be stocked with a phone charger, jumper cables, a flashlight, an adjustable wrench, a tire pressure gauge, and emergency flares or reflectors. And even though it’ nearly summer, don’t skimp on the blankets. Nights can be deceptively chilly in Southern California, and the last thing you’d want to get on your way back from the beach is hypothermia. Don’t think we’re joking.

Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu is renowned for saying, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” While he can be forgiven for not being aware of traffic forecasts (as they didn’t yet exist in his time), truthfully any thousand mile journey should probably start with checking those—wherever the wind in your hair takes you this weekend.

Have a serious injury and need legal advice?
Contact Howard Blau.

Check Out These References for Further Reading:

“Memorial Day events planned across the county.” VC Star. Retrieved 23 May 2018.

“The Deadliest Holiday For Car Accidents.” CBS News. Retrieved 23 May 2018.

“Auto Club: SoCal Memorial Day Travel Will Top All-Time Record From 2005.” Automobile Club of Southern California. Retrieved 23 May 2018.

“AAA expects Americans to take the most Memorial Day road trips since 2005.” Automobile Club of Southern California. Retrieved 23 May 2018.

“Memorial Day 2018 CA Travel Guide: Gas Prices, Peak Traffic Times.” Patch Media. Retrieved 23 May 2018.

“Record-level traffic expected for Memorial Day Weekend; and when not to drive.” The Mercury News. Retrieved 23 May 2018.

“AAA: 41.5M travelers for Memorial Day weekend, a 5% hike despite higher gas prices.” USA Today. Retrieved 23 May 2018.

2019-02-01T16:01:35-08:00May 24th, 2018|Car Safety, Cars, Road Trips, Tire Safety|0 Comments