Cheap gas, more travel predicted for Labor Day

Published 10:14 am Thursday, September 3, 2015

Known as the ceremonial last weekend of summer, the Labor Day holiday will be celebrated with millions of people traveling the country.

While some like to stay home for a final grill-out by the pool, some people will be hitting to the roads to visit family and friends or to get in their final summer vacation.

“Outdoors is usually the popular destination for this weekend,” said Don Redman, AAA spokesman for Mississippi.

Email newsletter signup

Sign up for The Vicksburg Post's free newsletters

Check which newsletters you would like to receive
  • Vicksburg News: Sent daily at 5 am
  • Vicksburg Sports: Sent daily at 10 am
  • Vicksburg Living: Sent on 15th of each month

Even though AAA did not survey travelers on their vacation destinations this year, traditionally people frequent beach, lake, state park and campground areas according to Redman.

AAA anticipates road and air traffic to be just slightly higher this year compared to last year. A total of about 35.5 million people, up 1 percent from last year, will be traveling at least 50 miles or more from home. A large majority of those travelers, 30.4 million, will be hitting the roads.

“Almost 86 percent of travelers will be traveling by vehicle,” Redman said.

Air travel will be up about 1.5 percent from last year with 2.64 million people traveling by air compared to 2.6 million last year.

“So just a modest increase over last year,” Redman said.

He said Labor Day weekend over the years has lost a lot of its travel numbers since schools began to start earlier, but this year will bring the highest travel numbers compared to the previous three years.

The increase could be due to lower gas prices this year with the state average being $2.07 a gallon compared to last year’s $3.18. For the past four years, gas prices were over a dollar more than they are this weekend.

“We’re looking at $1.10 cheaper per gallon than this time last year,” Redman said.

Redman said gas prices are at their lowest statewide since Aug. 2004 when the average was $1.80 per gallon. However, he said the decision to travel does not solely depend on fuel price even if it helps the family budget.

“It’s a good indication that people are still confident in the economy,” Redman said.

Daniel Wilson, a Mississippi Department of Transportation traffic management operator, said the roads should be clear besides the roadwork on I-20 in the Clinton and Bolton area. Much of that area is down to one-lane.

“We don’t have any big events or any big roadwork planned over the weekend other than what’s already been in place,” Wilson said.

Other than the construction outside of Jackson, the only foreseeable hold-up could be backups at off-ramps in cities with a greater number of cars exiting. As for Vicksburg, he said it should be clear.

“Hopefully it’s going to be clear,” Wilson said. “If there is anything inside the city it might back up around the exit ramps, but overall we don’t have any events planned, any roadwork or anything, everything’s looking clear.”

Last year, there were two Labor Day weekend fatalities on the roads in Mississippi with one in Panola County and one in Claiborne County, both single vehicle accidents occurring at night.

The weather is not expected to play a huge factor in holiday travel plans.

“We’re not expecting any tropical activity so that will be a good thing for the skies for this weekend,” said Mike Edmonston, senior meteorologist at the Jackson Weather Service Office.

Skies should be mostly sunny Friday and Saturday with only a 20 present chance of an afternoon shower or thunderstorm with the high back up in the mid to low-90s. There will be a better chance of showers on Sunday with a 30 percent chance of showers and a mostly cloudy sky in the afternoon. Then Monday will be back to a 20 percent chance of showers with a partly cloudy sky.

“No severe weather is expected or anything like that,” Edmonston said. “It’s not going to put a damper on anybody’s spirits.”