AAA is projecting that 34.7 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more this weekend to celebrate the holiday that marks the end of summer.
Around 2.5 million people in the Mountain West are planning to travel, according to AAA spokeswoman Rolayne Fairclough. And about 2.1 million are going to drive.
Leisure travel has steadily increased each holiday through the summer leading up to the busiest Labor Day travel weekend since the beginning of the recession in 2008. Fairclough says that’s a positive sign about their standard of living.
“When you see increases in travel,” she says, “you can also see that people are feeling better about the economy and the economy is stronger.”
Compared with last year, road travel is expected to increase .5 this Labor Day weekend.
And this year the number of road fatalities since Memorial Day has also jumped. According to the state Department of Transportation, 93 people have died on Utah’s roads during what they call the “100 deadliest days” of the year. Last summer it was 73.
Sgt. Todd Royce of the Utah Highway Patrol says holiday weekends tend to be more deadly, but he hopes the fatality list doesn’t get any longer.
“We’re going to have 266 additional shifts, called safety shifts,” he says.
“Troopers will be out on the road working and they’ll just be looking for those five major factors that cause fatal crashes, which are seat belts, driving impaired, speed, distracted driving and drowsy driving. They’ll be out looking to make traffic stops for those offenses and either issue citations or educate people on how they can be safer drivers.”
An alarming number of the fatalities might have been prevented if the victims had been wearing their seat belts. The Utah Department of Transportation estimates that half of those who died on Utah’s roads this summer were not buckled up.