High gas prices and continued economic recession aren't expected to keep holiday revelers off the road this Labor Day weekend.
The American Automobile Association's latest travel forecast predicts more than 3.7 million Californians will travel 50 miles or more from their homes this upcoming three-day Labor Day weekend. This represents an overall increase of 3.4 percent compared to last year.
"While many Californians are still caught in a fragile state of economic affairs, they are willing to travel, but will be cutting back on other expenses," said AAA Northern California spokesperson Cynthia Harris. "Those surveyed expect to cut back on shopping, take a shorter trip, travel by an alternative mode of transportation, and stay with family and friends to avoid higher expenditures over the holiday weekend."
This year, holiday trips by automobile are expected to be the preferred mode of transportation with more than 2.9 million Californians driving to reach their holiday destinations. This represents a 3.6 percent increase compared to 2011. More than 490,000 Californians are planning to travel by air, an increase of 4.1 percent compared to last year. More than 300,000 state residents are expected to travel by other modes of transportation, such as rail, bus and watercraft. This represents an increase of .2 percent over 2011.
Many are choosing to visit a State Park this weekend, as the Department of Parks has seen an increase in the number of campground reservations.
Labor Day weekend is the third busiest camping weekend of the year and the traditional end of the peak summer camping season. The number of nights booked in state park campgrounds over this Labor Day weekend has already surpassed previous years, and total reservations are on pace to top out well above 10,000.
The popular beach parks are already mostly full, with the exception of a few single-night stays still available. For those still looking for a campground to spend the weekend, State Parks recommends trying the many lakes and riverfront parks with boating, fishing and swimming opportunities for best availability.
Wherever Californians choose to spend the Labor Day weekend, the California Highway Patrol will be out in force.
The three-day holiday is a Maximum Enforcement Period for the CHP, beginning Friday and running through Monday. Throughout the MEP, all available officers will be on patrol cracking down on impaired drivers, speeders, and those who are a danger to themselves and others on the state's roadways.
During last year's Labor Day weekend, 29 people were killed in traffic collisions across California; a 38 percent increase from the previous year. Motorists choosing not to wear safety equipment contributed to the drastic increase in casualties.
"It is very disheartening to know that 19 people lost their lives last Labor Day weekend as a result of not wearing their seat belt," said CHP Commissioner Joe Farrow. "What a tremendous price to pay for something that is entirely preventable."
The CHP averages around 1,500 arrests for impaired driving every Labor Day MEP. Californians who drink alcohol are highly encouraged to designate a non-drinking driver in advance of the weekend and we remind motorists to call 9-1-1 to report suspected drunk drivers.
"Impaired driving is more than a social issue, it is a criminal issue," said Farrow. "As motorists travel throughout California, I want them to know the CHP will be out in force, working hard to remove impaired drivers and motorcycle riders from the roads. Our goal is for everyone to get safely to their destination."
As part of AAA's ongoing commitment to provide safety and protection to motorists, it will offer the Tipsy Tow Program - a free tow home for drinking drivers in Northern California, Nevada, and Utah from 6 p.m. on Monday until 6 a.m. on Tuesday. Members and non-members alike can call (800) 222-4357 (AAA-HELP) for a free tow of up to five miles.
"Just tell the AAA operator, ‘I need a Tipsy Tow,' and a truck will be on its way," said Harris. "Service is restricted to a one-way ride for the driver and his or her vehicle to the driver's home."