Delaware holiday traffic projected to increase

 (AP Photo/LM Otero)

(AP Photo/LM Otero)

After a winter’s worth of discontent, Delaware drivers appear ready to hit the road as the summer travel season officially gets underway this weekend.

Snow storm after snow storm kept Delawareans cooped up inside for what seemed like a longer winter than we’ve seen in years. Now, the state’s collective desire to get outside and enjoy warm temperatures will soon be unleashed on the state’s roads as the Memorial Day holiday weekend arrives.

AAA Mid-Atlantic is predicting a 1.9 percent increase in the total number of Delawareans expected to travel over the holiday weekend. “We’re ready to enjoy fun in the sun after the unusually harsh winter we endured this year,” said Jim Lardear, director of public and government affairs for AAA Mid-Atlantic. 

More than 100,000 Delawareans are expected to hit the road which is the highest amount since the recession hit around 2008. “The economy continues to improve with disposable income, consumer confidence, and the employment outlook all trending up,” Lardear said. “This is welcome news for travelers as well as the travel industry.

By the numbers

If you’re among the travelers getting behind the wheel this holiday weekend, expect plenty of company on the roads. The auto club is projecting more than 89,000 drivers will hit the roads in Delaware, with the heaviest traffic times coming on Friday and Monday. Last year, DelDOT says more than 105,000 cars passed through the I-95 Newark toll plaza on the Friday before Memorial Day. Over the entire 2013 holiday weekend, nearly 500,000 cars passed through the Newark plaza.

The number of Delawareans traveling by air is also expected to increase this year, with more than 7,000 residents projected to take to the skies. That’s an increase of nearly 3 percent from last year.

Along with the increase in travelers comes an increase in travel costs. Airfare costs are up slightly this Memorial Day weekend, while hotel costs are up as well. Rates at hotels rated Three Diamond by AAA are up 2.3 percent, while Two Diamond properties are up 14.2 percent. Car rental costs are up 1 percent.

On patrol

With all those extra travelers on the roads, Delaware police are teaming up for a seat belt enforcement effort that starts today and will run through June 2. The 2014 Click It or Ticket enforcement campaign’s theme is “Border to Border.” Police in Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland and seven other states in the northeast will be positioned along state borders from 6 to 10 p.m.

Police said there will be no grace period or warnings when it comes to seat belts. 

“Buckling up is not optional. It’s the difference between life and death in a crash,” said Col. Richard Arroyo of the Delaware River and Bay Authority police department.

So far this year, Delaware has seen a decrease in the number of fatal crash victims who were not buckled. At this time last, year, 56 percent of victims in fatal crashes were not wearing seat belts. So far this year, that number is a 42 percent. Thirty-three people have been killed in crashes in Delaware this year.

Delaware’s seat belt use rate is 92 percent, well above the national usage rate of 86 percent.

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