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More people to travel on Labor Day weekend
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Deborah Swain prepares to top off her tank with gas Wednesday afternoon at the Citgo station at the intersection of Shallowford Road and Dawsonville Highway. Travel during the Labor Day weekend is predicted to increase 7.1 percent over 2009, AAA Auto Club South predicts.

Many will be packing up and heading out of town this week for one last long weekend of summer.

AAA Auto Club South projects Georgia travel will be up 7.1 percent from Labor Day weekend 2009 with more than 921,000 Georgians reporting they will be taking a trip of 50 miles or more away from home.

Jessica Brady, a spokeswoman for AAA, said consumer confidence is quite a bit higher this year for Labor Day travelers.

"If you look at where the economy is currently versus where it was in 2009, while we may not be where we'd like to be in an economic standpoint, we are still far better than where we were this time last year," Brady said.

"Last year many consumers missed out on their summer vacations for fear of whether or not they were still going to have a job the following week; 401(k)s and things of that nature were losing money so we saw a lot of people staying home."

The average price of regular gasoline in Georgia is expected to be between $2.55 and $2.65 per gallon this holiday weekend, according to AAA.

Total U.S. travel is projected to increase almost 10 percent with more than 34.4 million people going 50 miles or more away from home this holiday weekend. The South Atlantic region is expected see an increase in travel, though the year-over-year growth is less than in other regions because of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

"While the oil spill is affecting travel, as opposed to people cancelling a trip, we're seeing people are redirecting their destinations," Brady said.

People who planned to travel to the Florida Panhandle may decide to go to a beach near Jacksonville, Fla., for example.

"While Florida is seeing a projected increase of about 3.9 percent, although it is an increase and that's a good sign, it's still not as large of an increase as some other states," Brady said.

This weekend, amusement parks will be a top destination.

"Especially (Universal's) Islands of Adventure (in Orlando, Fla.) with the Harry Potter exhibit. That's one that we're seeing a lot of families are looking to travel to," Brady said. "I think it's going to be pretty crowded this upcoming weekend."

To help ease traffic, the Georgia Department of Transportation will be suspending construction-related lane closures from 5 a.m. Friday until 5 a.m. Tuesday.

Road crews may be still be working near highways, so some lanes may remain closed because of safety concerns.

Incident management or emergency maintenance-related lane closures could become necessary on routes throughout the weekend.

The Department of Transportation urges travelers to call 511 for updated information about construction projects on interstates and state routes.

All the cars on the roads during Labor Day weekend can cause traffic problems.

During the 2009 Labor Day holiday period in Georgia, there were 1,917 reported traffic crashes with 867 injuries and 15 deaths, according to statistics compiled by the Crash Reporting Unit at the Georgia Department of Transportation.

For those that decide to stay home this weekend, safe rides are available to help reduce accidents.

Meanwhile, volunteers with Bill's Place Inc. will be available to drive Hall County residents home, in their own cars, if they have had too much to drink. The group first started offering the rides on Labor Day weekend in 2009. It hopes to provide another option for people who may otherwise drive drunk.

Col. Bill Hitchens, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Safety, said there will be increased patrols to arrest impaired drivers during the holiday period.

 

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