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AAA expects increase in holiday travel

WEDNESDAY, MAY 20, 2009

Bargain prices could fuel urge to roam

A three-year decline in Memorial Day travel is expected to reverse itself this weekend with a small increase in the number of Americans hitting the road, rails or skies.

The American Automobile Association is predicting that 32.4 million Americans will travel this holiday, an increase of 1.5 percent from the 31.9 million who traveled last year.

Those numbers are down from a peak in 2005, when 44 million Americans took trips away from home.

Lower gasoline prices combined with travel bargains and a pent-up desire to have vacation fun are the reasons behind the expected uptick in travel, according to AAA.

“Lower gas prices are really encouraging people to get on the road and travel,” said Cassie Devaney, public relations manager for the Inland Automobile Association of AAA in Spokane.

Last year, gasoline in the Spokane region was selling for $3.86 a gallon, compared with an average of $2.54 this week. Nationally, gas prices have seen similar declines.

Most of the travelers – 83 percent of them – will be going by personal vehicle.

The AAA forecast is based on a scientific survey of 2,700 households and other data, including economic indicators, through IHS Global Insight, a Boston-based economic research and consulting firm.

Devaney said any local slowdowns or congestion should be confined to areas where road work is under way.

Law enforcement officers in Washington, Idaho and Montana will be on the road watching for aggressive and impaired drivers. Speeding and seat belt violations will also be ticketed.

State patrol agencies in the three states will closely watch the Interstate 90 corridor from Ritzville to Missoula, according to a joint press release.

Local agencies in Spokane on Thursday will kick off a “Click it or ticket” campaign to apprehend seat belt and child safety restraint violators at night – an effort to reduce deaths and injuries resulting from not being buckled up.

In Kootenai County, sheriff’s deputies are participating in a seat belt emphasis patrol sponsored by the Idaho Department of Transportation. It began Tuesday and will run through May 31, the sheriff’s department said.

Citizens who see dangerous or impaired drivers are asked to call 911 as soon as it is safe to do so. In Idaho, calls may also be made by dialing *477.

Mike Prager can be reached at (509) 459-5454 or by e-mail at mikep@spokesman.com.


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