Memorial Day travel

Lon Anderson
Director, Public and Government Relations, AAA Mid-Atlantic
Thursday, May 27, 2010; 1:00 PM

Lon Anderson, director of Public and Government Relations at AAA Mid-Atlantic, was online Thursday, May 27, at 1 p.m. ET to discuss Memorial Day travel: by plane, by train and by car. More than 800,000 people in the Washington area -- a six percent increase over last year -- are planning trips and 684,000 of those will travel in cars, despite the fact that gas prices are 42 cents a gallon higher than they were one year ago.

Nationally, AAA's survey found that 32.1 million Americans say they will travel from home over the weekend, a 5.4 percent increase over last year. Anderson attributed the increase to a pent-up desire to travel among people who stayed home during the past two years of recession. The rebounding economy and discounts being offered by resort destinations have lured people back into travel mode, he said.


Lon Anderson: Good afternoon everyone and thanks so much for joining me. We are on the verge of our first post-recession holiday, judging from AAA's travel projections. Big travel numbers for the Memorial Day weekend--803,000 DC area folks heading out of town and that's up 6.5%. Please make safety your top priority in travel plans this weekend, and please feel free to join us with travel and holiday questions over the next hour or so.


Fairfax, Va.: My wife wants to head out tonight (destination: upper N.J.), and we would leave around 8 p.m., but I hate night driving. However, I hate traffic even more. Would I be okay if I get on the road around 10 a.m. tomorrow (Friday) morning? That would avoid the morning rush hour, and be before the worst traffic starts (I hope?) And should I head back on Sunday night (leave around 8 p.m., 4-hr drive), or Monday morning? I'm flexible, just want to make sure I avoid monster traffic, and a 4-hr trip doesn't turn into 6 or more.


Lon Anderson: Hello Fairfax! It will likely be heavy going all day tomorrow, (we are projecting 685,000 just on the roads over the holiday) but leaving in the morning just after rush hour should enable you to avoid the worst. For your return, either one should be good, but if you have tourble with drowsy driving when you do long drives until late into the night like I do, then heading out Monday morning might be safer for you. We always try to remind drivers to pay attention to their biological clocks on long drives--drowsy driving kills. Trying to drive when you are normally asleep is a bad idea! Hope this helps, and please be safe.


Arlington, Va.: Leaving for Charleston, S.C. Friday. Plan to leave at 4 a.m., good idea? Best time to start the journey back Monday? Any hints to avoid major traffic? Thanks!

Lon Anderson: Hello Arlington--4 am Friday sounds lie a great time to leave. Will get you to Richmond ahead of their rush, which is light anyway but should be especially so tomorrow. Good Plan.

For the home coming, Monday on I-95 is likely going to be rough, and unpredicable, but the earlier you can leave, the better. Please be safe, and remember the police will be out in force the entire weekend for our safety so make sure you keep the speed down.


Flying out of National: Thanks for taking my question! I have a flight from National to Montreal Friday afternoon. The flight leaves at 4:50. Will the standard plan of getting to the airport 2 hours early for an international flight still hold, or should I plan to leave an extra 30 minutes cushion?


Lon Anderson: Hello Flying! Great question. I went to one of our travel agents to get you the right answer and he said that two hours for a flight to Canada should be just fine. Remember that parking could be a real issue -- we are showing air travel is up over 3% and nearly 60,000 folks in the DC area will be flying away, so there will be crowds at the airport! Good luck and have a great trip.


Rockville, Md.: I'd like to visit friends in Chapel Hill this weekend. I don't work at all tomorrow and can leave as early as 6:30 a.m. or so. Is this my dumbest idea ever? I have a two-year-old, so am really only going to do this if it won't take three hours to get to Fredericksburg.

Lon Anderson: Hello Rockville--Not a dumb idea at all! We will likely have a light rush hour tomorrow morning with many taking the day off or trying to hit the road (but not work) so I would think the Beltway about 6:30 or 7 will be navigable. I sure understand not wanting a prolonged trip with your baby in the car. Your plan should get you past Fredericksburg in an hour or so. Good luck and be safe, please!


Alexandria, Va.: Best time to take on I95 South to Virginia Beach?

Lon Anderson: Hello Alexandria--Thanks for the question! If you have the freedom to do so, I'd head out tomorrow morning. Traffic on I-95 is likely going to be bad all day, and the later in the day, the worse it will be. Good luck and be safe!


Vienna, Va.: Any tips on getting past Fredericksburg with my sanity if I'm leaving around noon tomorrow (Friday, 28th)?


Lon Anderson: Vienna--It's going to hit or miss all weekend on I-95 and noon could be good, but it could also be bad, but likely better than leaving later. Remember we are projecting some 685,000 hitting the roads from the DC area this holiday, so it's going to be heaving going, but chances are probably with you leaving at noon tomorrow. Have I hedged my bets enough for you? Be safe and have a great holiday!


Alexandria, Va.: An in-town navigational question: I'm trying to get to the Kennedy Center for the opera on Sunday, and avoid Rolling Thunder and the Memorial Bridge, my usual route. Suggestions?

Lon Anderson: Hello Alexandria--Rolling Thunder will have their Ride for Freedom leaving the Pentagon Parking lot at noon and go over the Memorial Bridge to the Vietnam Memorial for a program that begins at 1 and will likely go for another 2 hours or so, so there will again be plenty of action on the roads with all of the participating bikers in the 3-4 pm time frame. You may want to consider taking the Metro Foggy Bottom and trying a cab, or if you are up for it, having a good walk.

By the way, AAA Mid-Atlantic offers the following tips for drivers to help keep motorcyclists safe on our roadways:

Remember the motorcycle is a vehicle with all of the rights and privileges of any other motor vehicle on the roadway. Always allow a motorcyclist the full lane width-never try to share a lane;

Always make a visual check for motorcycles by checking mirrors and blind spots before entering or leaving a lane of traffic and at intersections.

Always signal your intentions before changing lanes or merging with traffic;

Don't be fooled by a flashing turn signal on a mo­torcycle - motorcycle signals are often not self-canceling and riders sometimes forget to turn them off. Wait to be sure the motorcycle is going to turn before you proceed;

Remember that road conditions which are minor annoyances to passenger vehicles pose major hazards to motor­cyclists;

Allow more following distance, three or four sec­onds, when following a motorcycle, so the motorcyclist has enough time to maneuver or stop in an emer­gency. And don't tailgate. In dry conditions, motorcycles can stop more quickly than cars.

If you follow those tips, both you and the cyclists should be safe. Good luck getting to the opera!


Within-City Travel: I'm debating taking my toddler to Gravelly Point Monday morning. The drive would require me to use 495 in Maryland to get to GW Parkway. Is it crazy to even get on these roads if I'm not even traveling to far-distant lands? Thanks.

Lon Anderson: With-in City; that sounds like a great adventure, and it's certainly great fun watching the airplanes come and go from Gravelly Point. My Dad used to take me there when I was a kid (yes they had planes then, too!)
Monday morning on the GW Parkway and Beltway may actually be normal and moving, given no rush hour. I'd do it! Enjoy and please drive safely!


Fredericksburg, Va.: We're heading to Hazleton, Pa.,, for some whitewater rafting. Which do you think is the better route on Friday afternoon? Go up 95 toward Baltimore and cut over? Or go toward 270?

Lon Anderson: Hey Fredericksburg--Sounds like two great adventures, with just getting there being the first one. Friday afternoon on the north side of DC, I would expect both I-95 and I-270 to be heavy going. I think I-270 will be better because you avoid the Baltimore traffic scene in later afternoon. Frederick can be heavy, but nothing like the Baltimore mess. Good luck and enjoy the whitewater rafting. Remeber that they ahve possible flash flood warnings up because of heavy thundshower activity expected today and could be the same tomorrow--that could mean quite a ride on the water! Enjoy and please be safe!


Rockville, Md.: Counter-intuitively, gas prices have dropped noticeably the last two weeks (25 cents at my local station). Is the Gulf spill causing any regional discrepancies?

Lon Anderson: Rockville--Great question. No, the oil spill has not impacted our prices. Prices at the pum have gfallen more than a dime in just the last two weeks because crude prices on the world market have plummeted. A few weeks ago they were in the high $80's per barrel and are now down around $70. For every $10 that crude drops, gas prices drop about 24 cents, as a rule, so they should fall further as long as crude prices stay down. The instability in the world markets right now are the primary issue causing the drop in crude prices. Just enjoy when you fill up, especially given that just a month or two ago projections were that we would hit $3 at the pumps. I filled up at $2.69 yesterday near the Bay Bridge! This turnaround is also likely going to fuel some the big travel numbers we are projecting for holiday travel.

Here's hoping they get this leak stopped with their "top kill" before we suffer further damage!


Lon Anderson: Cocnerning Gas prices, my colleague John Townsend has provided this additional information:
May's drop in crude oil continues to work its way to the pump. For the third consecutive week gas prices continue their decline, which is welcome news for the 28 million Americans who plan to travel by car (up 5.8% from 2009) this Memorial Day weekend.

On Monday alone, oil prices fell below $68 per barrel during intra-day trading for the first time since late September of 2009 before staging something of a mini-rally to close the day just above $70 per barrel.

In response to the approximately $16 per barrel price drop market oil prices have seen thus far in May, retail gasoline prices are trending downward as well. On Monday, national average retail gasoline prices fell for the sixteenth consecutive day and now sit below $2.80 per gallon for the first time since the last day of March.


By the way, AAA Mid-Atlantic offers the following tips for drivers to help keep motorcyclists safe on our roadways: : These are all great tips and just as relevant for sharing the road with bicycles. Please remember that Maryland and over 40 other states require cars to give bicycles 3 feet when passing. Please remember to share the road!

Lon Anderson: Hey By-the-Way: Great point, and a good reminder that holiday weekends are a great time to be bicycling as well and many folks will undoubtedly be out there, given the projections for great weather, and a little cooler. So please drivers, share the road safely and be on the look out for bicyclists and mototcylists--all of whom will be out in force this holiday. Give them space, a

Lon Anderson: To this end, AAA Mid-Atlantic urges motorists to exercise exceptional caution when approaching cyclists who share the road and offers the following tips:

Look for cyclists in bike lanes, traffic lanes, and on the roadway, just as you would check for cars, especially when you are switching lane position or turning or going through an intersection.
Scan for cyclists, as well as pedestrians, and make the habit second nature.
Exercise extreme caution and care to avoid colliding with cyclists.
Make eye contact to acknowledge the presence of a bicyclist.
Don't hog the road. Cyclists have a right to the road, so give them some extra room.
Make sure there is at least three to four feet of passing between your car and the cyclists.
Use caution at intersections. A motorist's unexpected turn into the cyclist's travel lane is a common cause of bike-motor vehicle crashes.
Don't tailgate, especially in bad weather. Cyclists may have to maneuver unexpectedly to avoid road conditions that you can't see.
Check over your shoulder when and after passing a cyclist before moving back into the lane.
Watch for blind spots. Due to their size and the location of bike lanes, bikes can often get lost in a car's blind spot.
Double check before changing lanes, making right-hand turns.
Don't honk at cyclists unless they are in immediate danger. You can startle them and cause a crash.
Look before you open your door. Don't rely only on your rearview mirrors - turn your head to look for bicyclists who maybe alongside or approaching.
Be patient. Remember, cyclists are moving under their own power and can't be expected to go the same speed as cars.
Be courteous. Don't drive, park, stop or stand in a bike lane.


Woodbridge, Va.: Heading up to the Poconos -- any idea about Pennsylvania construction zones this weekend? We plan to leave here before noon.

Lon Anderson: Hello Woodbridge--Really glad you asked that question. The great news is that over the holdiay weekends, almost all states in our area have suspended work on our raod ways. So, you should not have any major back-ups because of construction zones, although we urge you to slow down in those zones because lanes often narrow and shift and the shoulders are often taken away or have big drops. So, work zones do require extra care, even on holidays when workers are not present. Remember, too, that Maryland has speed cameras enforcing the speed limits in work zones. So, hopefully no work zone delays, but slowing down in them is a great idea. Enjoy your trip and be safe!


Richmond Question: I'm driving from Northern Virginia to Richmond Saturday morning, have to be there by 9:30 a.m. Plans are to leave Alexandria/Fairfax county around 6 a.m (and assuming we make good time, stop for a leisurely breakfast south of Fredericksburg). Do you think I-95 will be okay that early?

Lon Anderson: Hello Richmond Question: should be good sailing at that time, but remember if your luck holds and traffic is light, be careful on the speed. The police are not taking the holiday and are going to be out in force. So, not a good time for a heavy foot--and speeds do climb on 95 south of No. VA. Be safe and enjoy!


Going Down the Shore: Going to be heading from Arlington to Long Beach Island in Jersey tomorrow. If leaving early afternoon (right in the thick of it, I know), would it be any better to deal with 50E across the Bay Bridge and then hit up through the Eastern Shore to avoid 95 and Baltimore?

Lon Anderson: Going Down the Shore--If you can handle the traffic approaching the Bay Bridge where back-ups are likely--the MD Transportation Authority folks are projecting some 350,000 trips across the bridge this weekend--then that's a nicer route. But hey, isn't anything nicer than I-95 especially on a holiday weekend? Also, work is not done on the toll area in DE on 95 and that can have some major back-ups as well. Good luck, and please dirve safely!


Arlington, Va.: I see you giving lots of tips for how cars can be more courteous to bicycle/motorcycle riders. How about some tips for the riders as well? I've seen some pretty awful driving by those folks too...bicyclists often fail to stop at red lights, or ride between cars on multi-lane roads (motorcyclists do this too), or ride in the middle of the lane on single-lane roads, or ride 2/3 abreast when they should be riding single file...the list goes on. Sure, cars are bigger, but bicyclists and motorcyclists cause plenty of accidents via aggressive, selfish road behavior.

Lon Anderson: Hey Arlington--I agree. Sharing the road safely has to be a two way deal and often it is not. But the onus is on drivers, no matter how frustrating, because driver errors can be lethal to bicyclists and cylists. Best plan is that all road users take extra care and be courteous. We have all seen both drivers and biclists/cylists not obeying the law--there's plenty of blame on both sides. However, your point is good since I have been giving saftey tips for drivers it's important for all road users to obey the law and be courteous. Thanks for that!


Washington, D.C.: When is the best time to get over the Bay Bridge this weekend? When is the worst?

Lon Anderson: Hello, DC--Great question. Early morning is probably the best and late afternoon the worst. But here's a tip--the Bridge has both live cameras and a website and you can utilize them to help you hit the bridge at a time when waits are not excessive. is the website.

According to their information, on Friday, best times will be before noon and after 10, on Saturday, before 7 a.m. and between 5 and 10 pm, and Sunday between 7 and 11 am and after 10 pm. On Mem. Day, before 11 am and after 10 pm. Hope that helps. Be safe!


Lon Anderson: Hey Everyone--thank you so much for participating and for all of your great questions. Please remember that the issue this holiday is not how fast you can get there, but getting there and back safely. Holiday weekends always have sharply elevated crash and fatality numbers, so please make safety a partner in you plans, stay safe, buckle up, hang up, and please don't drink and drive. Have a great Memorial Day holiday, everyone! Lon Anderson and your friends at AAA Mid-Atlantic.


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