Experts, troopers expect millions to travel this holiday season, urge caution

Updated: May. 27, 2021 at 5:59 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - The number - 37 million - is how many people AAA says will hit the road this weekend.

Those people are expected to go more than 50 miles for vacation or to travel for family. Some will set off in a car or plane for the first time since the pandemic began.

It is a huge increase over last year by nearly 60 percent, but it still does not come close to 2019. That is partially because of the pandemic.

Still, people are hitting the roadways and the skies in record numbers this Memorial Day weekend. AAA experts say there are a few reasons why people are more prone to travel this year than last year, even with COVID-19 still around.

The biggest one is the COVID-19 vaccine. Not only its availability but also its effectiveness as well. Another reason is the Centers for Disease Control’s newest guidance. It says fully vaccinated people can travel throughout the county safely. One of the other biggest reasons, AAA says, is pent up demand to get out of the house.

Some are apparently traveling this three-day weekend but did not last year. One traveler says she is seeing her family for the first time since the pandemic started. Public transportation hubs, like the airport, are one of the few places people still have to wear masks. She offered her thoughts on if airports will make sure people are wearing their masks despite the COVID precautions rollback in other places.

”Still kind of nervous about it. I have an N95. I’m probably going to wear it on the plane,” says the traveler.

More people traveling means more people and more troopers out and about. Troopers are expecting our highways to be jam packed. Troopers say they will be watching for drunk drivers and people without their seatbelts on. However, they add safety is everyone’s responsibility and encourage people to put their cell phones down and keep their eyes on the road.

”I’m used to traveling in traffic,” says traveler Monica Bosco.

Bosco is planning on hitting the road. After spending three weeks with her family in Connecticut, she is getting a jump start on the extended weekend by heading down to Florida.

”It was wonderful. I got to see everybody. Just hugs and it was very nice after all this time,” she says.

Trooper Gary Miller expects many others will feel the same way.

”We’re coming off of Covid shutdown everybody wants to come out and go somewhere to relax,” says Miller.

Miller says one percent of people died in car crashes across the Palmetto state each year, but over Memorial Day weekend last year, that statistic doubled.

”You wonder sometimes, when you come on a collision like that, how many times can we tell people slow down and increase your following distance before they listen,” he says.

That is why Miller says this weekend, troopers are going to be writing more tickets for speeding, tailgating and seatbelt violations than on normal days. He hopes more enforcement will mean fewer fatal crash investigations in his future.

”Be safe. We want you to get back home alive,” he says.

His recommendations: do not drink and drive, wear your seatbelt, put your phone down, and do not speed.

As far as the road to normalcy, Bosco has some thoughts.

”We will get there. Not yet. But we will,” says Bosco.

While most people drive over this three-day weekend, AAA says six times as many people will be getting on a plane. However, still not coming close to the record breaking 2019 numbers. It is about three quarters of a million people shy.

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