More drivers expected on roads this weekend due to low holiday gas prices

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Memorial Day Weekend gas prices are the lowest they've been in a decade. Photo by Hannah Leyva.
Memorial Day Weekend gas prices are the lowest they’ve been in a decade. Photo by Hannah Leyva.

The cheapest Memorial Day Weekend gas prices in 10 years will mean more Carolinians will be on the road this holiday weekend, according to AAA Carolinas.

The average price of gas both in Wilmington and across the state of North Carolina this weekend will be $2.21, according to AAA. Last year during the same holiday period, which is defined as the Thursday before Memorial Day until the Monday holiday itself, it was an average of $2.60 in Wilmington and $2.58 across the state.

That decrease is expected to correlate with an increase in holiday road trips. About 1.54 million North and South Carolina residents are expected to hit the highways to get to their destinations, an increase of 2.1 percent over last year.

“Carolinians are eagerly awaiting the start of summer and are ready to travel thanks to the lowest Memorial Day gas prices in a decade,” AAA Carolinas President and CEO Dave Parsons said in a release with the data. “We urge drivers to stay safe on the roadways this weekend and to always remember to disconnect and drive.”

Air travel is also expected to increase slightly across the region, but Wilmington International Airport should be operating at normal capacity, according to ILM Deputy Director Gary Broughton.

“It’s not typically a heavy air traffic weekend,” said Broughton, adding that Delta Airlines said they had regular flight capacity while loads are “a little on the light side” for American Airlines. “It’s business as usual.”

While the Transportation Security Administration has been under fire lately for excessively long security screening lines at other airports, Broughton said they’ve had no problems at ILM and don’t anticipate any over the holiday.

“We have been very fortunate our lines have kept moving,” Broughton said, crediting both staff and passengers who come the recommended hour and a half early to go through the security process. “We haven’t had any problems or complaints so far.”

Though the airport isn’t expected to be at full capacity over the weekend, hotels at the beaches will be, as Memorial Day marks the beginning of the summer tourist season.

“We will be sold out,” said Katie Eagle, director of sales at Courtyard by Marriott in Carolina Beach, the largest hotel on Pleasure Island. “That is pretty typical for weekends year-round, but especially on holidays.”

Whether locals are staying in town to cook out and hit the beach or traveling to get away from the crowds, officials are encouraging drivers to stay alert, as Memorial Day Weekend also marks the beginning of the deadliest time of the year, particularly for teen drivers. During the same holiday period last year, 12 North Carolinians died in car accidents.

“With heavy traffic expected on the roads this weekend, families should take extra measures to ensure safety on the highway,” the release from AAA Carolinas said. “Follow the rules of the road: Obey the speed limit, wear seat belts and never drink and drive.”