More people are expected to travel over the Memorial Day weekend and AAA Mid Atlantic says to expect heavy traffic on roads.
A ton of people will be heading someplace else for the holiday weekend that marks the unofficial start to summer, and most of those will be traveling by auto.
The AAA Mid-Atlantic said this week that it expects a 2.8 percent increase in Memorial Day weekend travelers over last year. That means almost 110,000 people will be heading off to some other destination, and 88.7 percent of those will be going by auto.
The holiday weekend is defined as starting Thursday and ending Monday.
Nationwide, AAA says 39.3 million people will travel 50 miles or more from home over the long weekend. That represents a 2.7 percent increase over 2016. Of those 39.3 million, 34.6 million will be going by auto.
DelDOT announced earlier that, as it has done during other holiday weekends, it will suspend construction-related lane closures from 12:01 a.m. Thursday through 12:01 a.m. May 31.
And since getting out on the water is a big part of the holiday for many people, the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental joined with other state agencies in highlighting National Safe Boating Week, which runs through Friday.
Delaware, which has one of the lower boating accident rates in the country, had 32 reported boating accidents and one fatality last year, with five accidents and two fatalities so far this year.
“Though some accidents are unavoidable, we need everyone on our waterways to be alert, use common sense and avoid actions that will put themselves, their passengers and other boaters at risk,” said Fish & Wildlife Natural Resources Police Chief Drew Aydelotte.
Statistics support the role of wearing life jackets in keeping boaters safe. In 2015, three-quarters of all boating-related fatalities nationwide were drowning victims, and more than 80 percent were not wearing life jackets, according to the U.S. Coast Guard. “Boating accidents can happen very fast — and there’s no time to reach for a stowed lifejacket and put it on. Like seatbelts in automobiles, we know without question that lifejackets save lives,” said Lt. John McDerby, Fish & Wildlife Natural Resources police boating safety coordinator.
Recent Coast Guard statistics show alcohol use is the leading contributing factor in fatal boating accidents. In Delaware, the same blood alcohol limit used to measure intoxication in automobile drivers applies to boat operators: 0.08 or above is legally intoxicated. Boat operators found to be at or over the limit face fines and potential jail time, as well as putting themselves and their passengers at risk.
“The best way to minimize the risk of an accident is to make the wise choice — don’t drink and boat,” said McDerby, noting boaters should plan to have a nondrinking designated boat operator aboard if alcohol is being consumed.
Whether on a boat or in an auto, having non-drinking designated drivers just makes sense.
Ken Grant, Manager of Public and Government Affairs for AAA Mid-Atlantic, said our region has had some spurts of warm weather in the last few months, and folks are ready to leave cold weather behind.
“Delaware residents are looking forward to beginning the summer season and the opportunity to enjoy sun, sand and short sleeves,” he said.