Whether heading to the beach, a theme park or college football game, travel is expected to be the heaviest on Alabama’s highways this weekend since Labor Day 2000.
With gas prices still low and Alabama and Auburn opening their football seasons Saturday, look for a record number of travelers on the highways, said AAA spokesman Clay Ingram.
The average cost of a gallon of gasoline in Alabama, the second-cheapest state for gas in the U.S., was $1.99 Wednesday, according to AAA.
“We’ve seen all of our holiday travel periods up noticeably this year — Memorial Day, Fourth of July and others — and we’re expecting Labor Day to be in the same category,” Ingram said. “Be prepared for a high traffic volume and plan ahead to give yourself plenty of time to reach your destination. Leave 30 minutes to an hour early so you can relax, take your time and save some money on gas by being a safe, conservative driver.”
During the holiday travel period, which begins Friday morning and ends Monday night, the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency will focus on stopping driving under the influence.
ALEA spokesman Jesse Thornton said grant money from the Alabama Department of Transportation and Department of Economic and Community Affairs will fund extra shifts for troopers.
In Decatur, officers will be focused on stopping aggressive driving, said Decatur police Sgt. Mike Cowart.
“They’ll be looking for things like tailgating and abrupt lane changes because people are in a hurry during the holiday weekend to get in and out of town,” Cowart said. “That kind of driving is very likely to cause a wreck and put others in danger.”
On interstates, all temporary lane closures will be suspended during the holiday weekend, according to ALEA.
Though gas prices have increased during the past month — up about 11 cents from an average of $1.88 in Alabama — Ingram said that trend isn’t likely to continue.
“We’ve seen the price bump because the crude oil cost is up with the dollar being devalued a little right now,” Ingram said. “There also have been a few infrastructure issues with flooding on the Gulf Coast and some fires at some refineries.
“But supply is strong right now, so before long, I think we’ll see prices dropping again.”
Flights at Huntsville International Airport also are expected to see an uptick this weekend, said airport spokeswoman Samantha Nielsen.
“We normally suggest arriving about two hours early for international and an hour for domestic, but you might want to add an extra half-hour because of the holiday,” Nielsen said.
Preparedness, she said, is the best way to ensure a smooth airport visit and reduce stress as you depart on a weekend getaway.
“Know which items you can and can’t pack before you get here, and always be sure to look for the lowest air fare on our Huntsville Hot Ticket Hotline (website),” she said.
Thinking ahead also can reduce stress if you’re traveling on the roadway, Ingram said.
Ingram said drivers should get basic maintenance performed on their cars before squeezing in that last trip to the beach or taking the family to a theme park.
“You don’t want to get stuck on the side of the road,” Ingram said. “That never happens at a good time or place, and it can usually be prevented.”