COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS, WHSV) — With the unofficial kickoff to summer right around the corner, AAA said there could be a record-breaking number of people taking trips this Memorial Day weekend — with Thursday night between 4:45 and 6:00 p.m. expected to be the worst time.
AAA is expecting an additional 1.5 million travelers across the country this weekend compared to Memorial Day last year, with a total of more than 42 million expected to travel between Thursday and Monday. A majority of those travelers are expected to drive.
In Virginia, state police is expecting more than one million Virginians to be driving for the holiday weekend. They are encouraging drivers to make safe driving a priority.
"More than a million drivers on Virginia's highways over the Memorial Day weekend means we have more than a million reasons to safely share the road, buckle up, drive distraction free, comply with speed limits and to not drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs," Colonel Gary Settle, Virginia State Police superintendent, said.
While there's the concern for congestion on the roads, there's also the concern for impaired drivers.
The period between Memorial Day and Labor Day is considered the "100 Deadly Days of Summer" because the number of traffic deaths tends to go up this time of year — partly due to impaired drivers. According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving, in 2017, 37% of traffic deaths during Memorial Day weekend were caused by drunk driving.
Starting Friday, VSP will join law enforcement around the country for Operation C.A.R.E, a program "intended to reduce crashes, fatalities and injuries due to impaired driving, speed and failing to wear a seat belt."
During the 2018 Memorial Day Operation C.A.R.E. initiative, Virginia troopers arrested 122 drunk drivers, cited 8,673 speeders and 2,704 reckless drivers. Of the 870 traffic crashes they investigated, VSP says 11 were fatal.
Another costly statistic for holiday travel is the number of car breakdowns. AAA said hundreds of thousands of drivers will experience car trouble.
South Carolina Trooper David Jones said drivers could find themselves in serious trouble because of a car breakdown, especially this Memorial Day weekend.
"Just like winter weather, or we see extreme cold temperatures — this Memorial Day, we're looking at triple-digit heat," he said. "So, it's very dangerous for somebody to be stranded on the side of the road."
You are encouraged to contact law enforcement if you see a stranded motorist.
"Let us know, so we can respond," Jones said. "We may not be able to help fix the car, but we can at least offer a passenger seat for somebody to sit in with the A/C on."
Virgina State Police also wants to remind drivers of Virginia's "move over" law, which requires drivers to move over when approaching an emergency vehicle stopped alongside the road. If you are unable to move over, drivers are required to slow down.
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