COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - The unofficial kickoff to summer is right around corner as we look ahead to Memorial Day weekend. This also means more drivers on the road and AAA said there could be a record-breaking number of people taking trips this holiday weekend.
AAA said Thursday night could be the worst time for travelers between 4:45 and 6:00 p.m. The travel company is expecting an additional 1.5 million travelers across the country this weekend compared to Memorial Day last year.
While there’s the concern for congestion on the roads, there’s also the concern for impaired drivers. The period between Memorial Day and Labor Day is considered the “100 Deadly Days of Summer” because of the number of traffic deaths tends to go up this time of year. That’s partly due to impaired drivers.
According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving, in 2017, 37% of traffic deaths during Memorial Day weekend were caused by drunk driving. The numbers for the Palmetto State are also troubling. South Carolina comes in ninth place compared to every state for the highest number of drunk driving fatalities – though the state is 23rd in line for the largest population.
“Know that the South Carolina Highway Patrol is going to be in full force,” said Lance Corporal David Jones, a state trooper with SCHP. Our main focus is getting impaired drivers off the road, keeping South Carolina safe and making sure people are buckling up.”
A breakdown of the numbers from AAA show more than 42 million Americans are expected to travel between Thursday and Monday. An overwhelming majority of those travelers are expected to drive.
Another costly statistic for holiday travel is the number of car breakdowns. AAA said hundreds of thousands of drivers will experience car trouble. Trooper Jones said drivers could find themselves in serious trouble because of a car breakdown and especially this Memorial Day weekend.
“Just like winter weather, or we see extreme cold temperatures – this Memorial Day, we’re looking at triple-digit heat,” he said. “So, it’s very dangerous for somebody to be stranded on the side of the road. So, we often ask if you see somebody who’s broken down or you see a stranded motorist, call *47. Let us know so we can respond. We may not be able to help fix the car, but we can at least offer a passenger seat for somebody to sit in with the A/C on.”
Troopers said they’ll also be enforcing their “Buckle Up South Carolina” campaign.
Just over the last two years, South Carolina has seen more than 20 traffic deaths during the Memorial Day weekend.