Labor Day travelers aim for N.C. roads

The end of summer will see a burst of travel by North Carolinians, according to AAA. Despite higher gas prices and increased unemployment, more people plan to travel at least 50 miles from Labor Day weekend than did on Memorial Day weekend.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — More North Carolinians plan to take a trip at the end of summer on Labor Day weekend than did at the start of summer on Memorial Day weekend, according to AAA of the Carolinas.

AA projects that 1.017 million North Carolinians will travel more than 50 miles from home this weekend. That's up 12.5 percent from Memorial Day, although gas prices and the unemployment rate are both higher.

"People really want to get away for the last holiday of the season," AAA President David E. Parsons said. "There exists a current pent-up desire to travel that is manifesting itself this weekend."

Travel experts believe that tourists sites from Boone to Wilmington could see an uptick in visitors.

Asheville is among the top five destinations for North Carolinians traveling this weekend, according to AAA Vacations, which tracks hotel bookings and TripTick routings. The other destinations are Myrtle Beach, S.C., Washington, D.C., Charleston, S.C., and Atlanta, G.A.

Parsons said that discounts from hotels, airlines and entertainment venues are sweetening the trip for some travelers.

Wherever they go in North Carolina, travelers will find good weather: mostly sunny skies, highs in the mid- to upper 80s and low humidity.

"It should be awfully pleasant this weekend," WRAL meteorologist Elizabeth Gardner said. "As you want to get in that last trip to the pool, the lake, the beaches, the weather should be perfect."

The majority of travelers will be driving: Only 4 percent of North Carolinians, or 39,000, will travel by air, while the remaining 10 percent will be in buses, trains or boats, according to surveys conducted by IHS Global Insight on behalf of AAA.

Higher gas prices will greet those drivers. The cost of a gallon of regular, unleaded fuel has risen about 14 cents since Memorial Day weekend.

The state's highest gas prices are in Durham, with an average of $2.579. Raleigh and Fayetteville both have averages of about $2.53. The cheapest gas is in Wilmington, at $2.459 a gallon.

Gas prices, though, are significantly lower than during the 2008 Labor Day weekend, when the statewide average was $3.607 a gallon.

The North Carolina Department of Transportation aims to ease Labor Day travel by suspending most road projects. Exceptions include Interstate 85 in Vance County, between mile markers 206and 214, and Interstate 95 in Robeson, at exits 24 and 33.

Meanwhile, state troopers and local law enforcement will be out in force, cracking down on speeding and aggressive driving.

"Don't try to cut a few minutes off your travel time by speeding or driving aggressively. It's just not worth it," said Col. Randy Glover, commander of the state Highway Patrol.

In 2008, 13 people died and 582 were injured in 1,140 wrecks on North Carolina roads, according to the Highway Patrol.

The official Labor Day holiday weekend begins at 6 p.m. Friday and ends at midnight Monday.


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