LAURINBURG — Falling gas prices and an improving economy could boost Labor Day travel, according to AAA Carolinas.
An expected 1,021,800 Tar Heel state residents — a one percent increase from 2014 — are expected to travel 50 miles or more from home over the Labor Day holiday which runs from today through Monday.
Those driving will encounter the lowest gas prices this holiday in 11 years, officials said. North Carolina’s state-wide average on Wednesday was $2.22 per gallon.
“I think it’s a good thing, even though I’m not a driver I’m a rider and I have to pay people for rides,” said Laurinburg resident Kenescha Monroe. “I hope it comes on down a bit more, it would be nice if it was under $2 a gallon.”
Motorists were paying $1.10 more per gallon statewide a year ago on Labor Day. Gas prices in North Carolina have fallen 43 cents a gallon since July 4th, allowing consumers to keep more money in their wallets and spend slightly more on hotels and food.
“They’re lower than they were at the beginning of the summer, but I reckon they could go lower,” said Alix Holtzclaw a resident of Dillon, SC who drives to work in Laurinburg. “A little lower would be good because I know companies are making a killing off gas.”
“Lower gas prices and an extended weekend should motivate North Carolinians to hop in their vehicles for one more family road trip as the summer travel season comes to a close,” said Dave Parsons, CEO and president of AAA Carolinas.
The most expensive gas in the state is in Asheville at $2.36 and the least expensive is in the Greensboro-Winston-Salem-High Point area at $2.16.
“Gas prices are outrageous up here, gas prices in South Carolina are only $1.99.” said Major Clark a resident of Dillon, SC. “I haven’t noticed them drop up here, it’s always been like $2.15 or right in that area.”
Traveling south, motorists will find the cheapest gas in the nation in South Carolina, with an average price of $2.01.
“I’m used to $1.99, at the most $2.00,” Clark said. “If gas prices would stay that way, we’d be a whole lot better off.”
Further south, the averages are higher at $2.28 in Georgia and $2.29 in Florida. Heading north, Virginia’s at $2.18 and going west, Tennessee’s average is $2.14. Kentucky is North Carolina’s highest priced neighbor with an average price of $2.32.
Most state Department of Transportation construction projects will be on hold along interstate, N.C. and U.S. routes from 4 p.m., Friday until 9 a.m. on Tuesday.
“As families travel to enjoy the final holiday weekend of summer, NCDOT will suspend most road construction activities on major routes across the state to help make their trips a little smoother,” said Jennifer G. Heiss, a DOT spokesman. “By avoiding traffic delays, motorists can reach their destinations safely and efficiently, while cutting down on fuel consumption and costs.”
With more people traveling — about 880,000 driving — local law enforcement will be out in force as part of the Labor Day “Booze It and Lose It” Campaign. The program includes checkpoints and stepped-up patrols in an effort to remove intoxicated drivers from the roads.
“We’ll have more motorists on the road than last year,” Parsons said. “And it’s the perfect time to remind everyone to practice safe driving habits including not drinking and driving, adhering to speed limits, and eliminating distractions behind the wheel such as cell phone use.”
Hundreds of local law enforcement officers and officials gathered in Concord earlier this month for the North Carolina Highway Safety Symposium. This annual event provides valuable information from local and national experts on highway safety issues.
The symposium concluded with the official kick off of the 2015 Labor Day “Booze It and Lose It” campaign through the Governor’s Highway Safety Program. The campaign runs through Monday and is focused on getting drunken drivers out from behind the wheel.