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Gas prices may affect Labor Day travel plans
Price up 19 cents from a week ago
Drivers looking to take a Labor Day weekend trip will be paying more for gas as prices rise to nearly $4 per gallon.

See which gas stations near you have the cheapest gas.

Georgians are expected to mirror national trends for travel over Labor Day weekend — or at least they were before Hurricane Isaac drove up gas prices.

AAA predicts 900,000 people from Georgia will travel 50 miles or more on the holiday weekend — which started Thursday and runs through Monday. That’s a 2.9 percent increase, identical to the auto club’s forecast for increased travel across the nation.

Gas prices, though, took their biggest one-day jump in 18 months on Wednesday, according to AAA, Wright Express and the Oil Price Information Service, climbing nearly a nickel to a national average of $3.804. Gas prices climbed about another 2 cents nationally on Thursday. The national average price for regular retail gasoline during last year’s Labor Day holiday was $3.66.

The price in Georgia Thursday was up 19 cents from a week ago to an average $3.86.

With 66 percent of those planning to travel saying their financial situations won’t negatively influence their travel plans, the impact of rising gas prices may be limited. AAA notes, however, increases in gas prices could cause some travelers to alter their plans.

Historically, incidents that impact regional gas prices and regional travel have not impacted nationwide holiday travel.

AAA forecasts 790,132 Georgians will travel 50 miles or more by automobile for the holiday, up 3 percent from last year. A total of 62,115 people from Georgia will travel by air, a 4.1 percent increase, but other modes of transportation will see a 0.2 decrease in Georgia travelers, to 48,541. Those figures track AAA’s national predictions of a 3.1 percent increase in travel by car, a 3.7 rise in air travel and a 0.3 percent dip in travel by other means.

“Although overall economic growth continues to move at a sluggish pace, it is encouraging to see so many Americans value and prioritize travel,” said Brent Hubele, vice president of AAA Travel, The Auto Club Group. “The health of the travel and tourism industry is a vital contributor to our economic recovery and supports almost 8 million jobs across the nation.”

To help those 900,000 holiday weekend travelers on their way, the Georgia Department of Transportation is suspending construction-related lane closures from noon today to 5 a.m. Tuesday.

The department reminds travelers to remain cautious, as “heavy holiday traffic is expected throughout the state; crews may be still be working in proximity to highways; and safety concerns may require some long-term lane closures remain in place. Also, incident management or emergency, maintenance-related lane closures could become necessary at any time on any route.”

“We’ve averaged nearly 2,000 accidents across our state during recent Labor Day weekends,” Georgia DOT District Engineer Bayne Smith said. “On average, more than 15 people die and more than 900 are injured on Georgia roads each year during this holiday. It should be a time of rest and festivities dedicated to working men and women, not of tragedy and grief. Please be very careful and do not drive distracted or while impaired.”

The average distance traveled by Americans this Labor Day holiday is expected to be 626 miles, up slightly from last year’s average of 608 miles, AAA said. Despite the longer travel distance, 54 percent of holiday travelers will take shorter-distance trips, between 100 and 400 miles round trip.

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