The unofficial beginning of summer means the start of summer travel season, and despite record gas prices, many Lehigh Valley residents are expected to take to the roads this Memorial Day weekend.
The American Automobile Association (AAA) predicts that 39.2 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more from their home the holiday weekend; a number that marks an 8.3 percent increase over 2021 travel and matches levels not seen since 2017.
“Memorial Day is always a good predictor of what’s to come for summer travel,” said Paula Twidale, senior vice president of AAA Travel. “Based on our projections, summer travel isn’t just heating up, it will be on fire. People are overdue for a vacation and they are looking to catch up on some much-needed R&R in the coming months.”
The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission projects that more than 2.2 million motorists will be traveling the turnpike over the Memorial Day weekend, with the heaviest traffic volume forecast for Friday.
Turnpike officials released the following day-by-day travel projections for their system:
- Friday, May 27 – 770,000 vehicles
- Saturday, May 28 – 540,000 vehicles
- Sunday, May 29 – 460,000 vehicles
- Monday, May 30 – 495,000 vehicles
“While our traffic volumes are beginning to mirror, or even exceed, the levels prior to the pandemic, poor driving habits made worse during the pandemic–when drivers saw sparser traffic and wide-open roads–are becoming far more dangerous,” said Pennsylvania Turnpike CEO Mark Compton. “With more congested roadways, these increasingly deadly driving behaviors are having even more alarming impacts to lives and families. We must work to change that trend and remind and re-educate drivers that lives are in their hands when they sit behind the wheel. A moment’s distraction can have devastating consequences. Put your phone down, watch your speed and pay attention to what is happening on the roadway.”
Pennsylvania State Police plan to increase patrols over the holiday weekend as well as monitor sobriety checkpoints, including one troopers from the Belfast barracks will set up in Northampton County.
“With Memorial Day weekend upon us and a surge in holiday traffic anticipated, we echo the reminder to motorists of the importance of safe driving habits,” said state police Cpl. Matthew Johnston of the Pennsylvania State Police. “Obeying the posted speed limits, allowing sufficient distance between other vehicles and a general respect for other motorists will ensure everyone reaches their destination safely.”
AAA said it expects its emergency roadside crews in the Philadelphia region to help nearly 6,000 drivers with dead batteries, tire trouble, lockouts and empty gas tanks.
In a statement, AAA officials encouraged drivers to have a summer emergency kit in their vehicles, which they recommended contain the following:
- Fully-charged cell phone and car charger
- First aid kit
- Flashlight with fresh batteries and a backup supply of batteries
- Rags, paper towels or pre-moistened wipes
- Emergency warning devices such as road flares or reflectors
- Jumper cables
- Drinking water/snacks for everyone in the car, including pets