Record high gas prices impact holiday weekend traffic

Published 1:44 pm Friday, May 23, 2008

For the second straight year, Memorial Day highway travel in the Carolinas will not increase over the prior year, according to AAA Carolinas.

An estimated 805,500 North Carolina and 394,000 South Carolina drivers are expected to hit the road beginning Friday ‐ roughly the same numbers as last year – as part of the traditional Memorial Day vacation and travel more than 50 miles from home, according to surveys by AAA and the Travel Industry Association.

&dquo;This is the first major vacation of the year, it signals the beginning of summer and despite high gasoline prices and an uncertain economy, motorists are not going to stay home,&dquo; said David E. Parsons, president and CEO of AAA Carolinas.

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&dquo;The good news is many resorts are offering hotel and package discounts to encourage motorists to travel, including popular destinations like Myrtle Beach and Orlando, Florida ‐ two of the most popular East Coast vacation spots,&dquo; said Parsons.

The number of requests for AAA travel assistance remains unchanged from last year, although some travelers are taking shorter trips and patronizing less expensive accommodations.

Last year, like this year, prices rose markedly higher between Easter and Memorial Day ‐ 49 cents in both North and South Carolina ‐ to over $3 a gallon in both states in 2007. (See chart).

Since Easter 2008, gasoline prices have jumped 51 cents a gallon in North Carolina and 50 cents a gallon in South Carolina, setting record high prices almost daily.

Since last Memorial Day, prices in North Carolina are up 62 cents a gallon; in South Carolina prices are up 64 cents a gallon.

The price for a regular, self-serve unleaded gallon of gasoline will not reach a much-publicized $4 a gallon in North or South Carolina, despite financial doomsday predictions by newcomers to the dynamics of gasoline pricing.

While upward pressures may increase gasoline prices this summer, no one can predict the countervailing effect of travelers motoring shorter distances and daily gasoline conservation practices.

&dquo;It remains unknown what a potential price of $4 a gallon gasoline would have on consumption,&dquo; said Parsons. &dquo;There have been past surveys in which motorists promised major behavioral changes when gasoline reached $2 a gallon and again when gasoline reached $3 a gallon but those survey conclusions did not materialize.&dquo;

Record high oil prices have also raised the price of airline tickets and fliers this holiday weekend will pay more for tickets or a specific fuel surcharge, which can range from $50 to $150 a ticket.

Airfares are expected to average $179, an increase of eight percent over last year. Car rental rates have increased this year by $14 to $45 a day. Accommodation average prices are mixed, with AAA rated Two Diamond accommodations charging about $10 more to $112 a day and AAA rated Three Diamond properties charging $162 a day, about $12 less than last year. These types of properties typically handle over 75% of holiday travel accommodations.


North Carolina&squo;s most expensive gas prices are in Charlotte and Asheville at $3.78 per gallon for self-serve unleaded, while the least expensive is in Winston-Salem at $3.73.

South Carolina&squo;s most expensive gas price average is in Myrtle Beach at $3.69 per gallon for self-serve unleaded. The least expensive is in Spartanburg at $3.58.


Cost-conscious travelers can go to to find the cheapest gas prices in a 3-, 5- or 10-mile radius of their choosing, obtained from credit card transaction at more than 85,000 individual stations throughout the United States.

Motorists taking a trip can budget estimated gas costs for their personal vehicles by going to By entering their origin, destination, make and model of their vehicle, motorists can get an estimated gasoline cost for a round trip.

To get the best gasoline mileage, AAA recommends:

&ull; Cool the pedal. Your gas mileage is cut by 10 percent for every extra 5 miles per hour you travel over 65 mph; drive a safer 65 mph rather than 75 mph.

&ull; Let your car breathe. A clogged air filter can cut mileage by 10 percent; a faulty oxygen sensor by up to 40 percent.

&ull; Take the junk out of the trunk. Having an extra 100 pounds in the trunk can cut fuel economy by about 1 percent.

&ull; Check the pressure. For every three pounds below your tires&squo; recommended pressure, fuel economy drops about 1 percent.

&ull; Start your trip early while traffic is light and plan meal stops along the way to coincide with likely periods of congestion. Unless you&squo;re taking a scenic drive, avoid two-lane roads with lots of stop signs and traffic signals. Consider getting an AAA TripTik.

&ull; Use cruise control whenever possible to maintain steady speeds for the best fuel economy.

&ull; Air conditioning dramatically reduces fuel economy, so use it only when needed. Try to make do with your A/C&squo;s &dquo;economy&dquo; setting, which allows the circulation of unchilled air.

An affiliate of the American Automobile Association, AAA Carolinas is a not-for-profit organization that serves more than 1.7 million members with travel, automobile and insurance services while being an advocate for the safety and security of all travelers.