Fluctuating gas prices will not keep and estimated 3.5 million Californians from jumping in their cars and hitting the road this Memorial Day weekend, according to AAA of Northern California. That's a 1.6 percent increase over last year.
All told, 4.2 million people in the state are expected to travel 50 miles or more to reach their holiday weekend destination, a 1.5 percent climb from Memorial Day 2011. While 265,000 state residents plan to use buses, trains and boats to reach their destination, 390,000 will fly. Both sets of travel modes are down, 11.9 percent and 5.4 percent, respectively, from 2011.
Of those who plan to drive, their celebration will be low key given today's financial burdens, said Cynthia Harris, AAA spokesperson.
“High debt burdens, gasoline prices, and uncertainties regarding the strength of the current economic recovery have not deterred Californians from holiday travel,” she said. “But many consumers intend to cut back on the distance they travel, as well on entertainment expenses, to compensate for reduced travel budgets. Others will be opting for backyard barbeques, a staple of this three-day holiday weekend.”
Before hitting the road, drivers should make sure their vehicle is in tip-top shape to avoid break downs, as well as save on gas.
While consulting your owners manual, things to check include:
- Tire pressure and tread -- Make sure tires are properly inflated and check for tread wear. Under-inflated tires decrease fuel economy and wear the edges of their tread. Tires without proper tread can blow out.
- Engine air filter -- While you should change your air filter every six months or 7,500 miles, if you cant see through it, replace it.
- Battery cables and connections: Check for corrosion, slow engine cranking and dimming headlights. If necessary, clean and tighten battery connections.
- Windshield washer fluid: Check washer fluid monthly and test washer spray nozzles to make sure they work.
- Motor oil: Make sure you have clean, adequate amounts of oil in your engine. Consider using energy-conserving oil with additives that improve fuel economy.
Holiday revelers who plan to consume alcohol are encouraged to not drink and drive.
If designating a driver or taking a taxi are not options, AAA's Tipsy Tow program will be there to come to the rescue 6 p.m. on May 28 until 6 a.m. on May 29 for members and non-members alike.
The program provides one-way rides home for inebriated drivers, their car and passengers, if there's room, for up to 10 miles from the pick-up site.
Reservations are not accepted.
To get a Tipsy Tow, call (800) 222-4357 -- also known as 1-800-AAA-HELP.
What's more, the California Highway Patrol and local police departments, will have every available officer on the roads enforcing traffic laws and keeping the peace.
Local law enforcement agencies to crack down on seat belt violators
From now through June 3, the California Highway Patrol and local law enforcement will be on the hunt for motorists and their passengers who are not buckled up as part of a multi-agency “Toward zero deaths, every 1 counts” campaign.
With a 96.6 percent compliance rate of the state's mandatory seat belt law, one of the highest rates in the nation, more than one million drivers do not regularly wear their seat belt while behind the wheel, according to Office of Traffic Safety. Wearing their seat belt the lives of more than 1,300 people in 2010, the agency reported. Another 110 people would not have died had they used their seat belt.
While most motorists in Santa Cruz County use their seat belts, officer Sarah Jackson of the CHP's Aptos office, catches adults, as well as children, not properly restrained in their vehicle.
“One important thing for parents to remember about the new booster seat law is this: If the seat belt rests against your child's neck or face, or must be tucked behind their back, this can cause serious injuries or death in a collision,” she said. “If the seat belt does not fit or is not used properly -- no matter the occupant's age -- you can be cited for improper use of the seat belt. This is the same violation as if the seat belt was not used at all.”
Citations for non-seat belt use cost at least $159 on a first offense, according to the Office of Traffic Safety. Child restraint violations for youths under age 16 will cost the driver at least $479 per child for a first offense, plus a violation point added to the driver's record. The citation jumps to $1,079 or more on a second offense. If drivers are pulled over for both a seat belt and hands-free or texting violation, they can be cited for both infractions. The combined ticket can cost at least $318.