The highways are expected to be busy during the upcoming Labor Day Holiday weekend. This view shows northbound I-75 in Moraine. TY GREENLEES / STAFF
Photo: Ty Greenlees
Photo: Ty Greenlees

Cheaper gas expected for Labor Day travel

Gas prices for Labor Day travelers this week are nearly 30 cents cheaper per gallon than last year.

That should add to the record-breaking travel that has been seen on roadways and in the air this summer, said Kara Hitchens of Miami Valley AAA.

About 17.5 million passengers are expected to travel on U.S. airlines during the week-long Labor Day travel period, according to a statement from Airlines for America, a trade group representing U.S. airlines. That’s a record and 4 percent increase from last year.

As drivers hit the road, they’ll enjoy Labor Day gas prices lower than they’ve been in since 2017 and may continue dropping into the fall, according to GasBuddy.com.

“After last week’s escalation in the trade battle between the U.S. and China, it’s possible that the streak continues longer than previously anticipated as oil markets react to the news, sending oil lower,” said Patrick DeHaan, head of petroleum analysis for GasBuddy.

The average gallon of gas was $2.55 Wednesday in Dayton, down from $2.82 at this time last year.

“It’s probably the least traveled of the summer holidays traffic, but those of us in law enforcement in general, you just never know. Sometimes when we have a beautiful, sunny, summer afternoon we have just as many crashes as a winter type of day,” said Sgt. Jeff Kramer, with the Dayton post of the Ohio State Highway Patrol.

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The patrol goes into the holiday just like the Fourth of July, limiting time of for troopers and scheduling everyone possible to work. The patrol will target areas with high volumes of crashes and distracted driving starting at midnight.

“Visual presence is a big thing with traffic safety,” Kramer said. “If somebody’s maybe not paying exact attention, but are good law-abiding drivers, and notice an officer there, then maybe it will help them realize ‘oh yeah, this is a massive enforcement initiative this weekend.’”

Summer months are among some of the deadliest for crashes because of the higher speeds and closer following distances people feel comfortable driving compared to winter months, Kramer said. Crashes in dryer, higher-speed situations where there’s more energy transferred to the passengers are deadlier than those in wetter, slippery conditions where energy dissipates post-collision as cars slide.

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Labor Day weekend is also notorious for alcohol-related incidents as one of the deadliest times on U.S. roads, according to the the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

With many people traveling closer to home, they sometimes feel more confident driving on a familiar route after a few drinks, something they might have organized other transportation for if they were further away in unfamiliar territory, Hitchens said.

The National Safety Council estimates nearly 400 people may die on U.S. roadways during the Labor Day holiday period. In 2017, 36 percent of fatalities were alcohol related, up from the annual average of 29 percent, according to NHTSA data.

“We always encourage people to be vigilant no matter where they are. Don’t drink and drive, don’t text and drive, make a plan before you head out,” Hitchens said.

AAA also recommends travelers get their vehicles checked before heading out for a road trip.

“You want to prepare for everything. You still want to do some regular car maintenance because no matter what, whether it’s winter or summer, you want to have good tire pressure, you want to make sure that your battery’s going to hold up,” Hitchens said. “There’s nothing worse than being on a holiday and your car breaks down on the side of the road.”

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