With boom in travel, Southern Utah drivers urged to go ‘Back to Basics’ over Memorial Day weekend

Traffic in the Virgin River Gorge, Mohave County, Ariz., date not specified | File photo by Sheldon Demke, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — Just because Memorial Day weekend signals the beginning of the “100 Deadliest Days” of travel doesn’t mean they have to be. And if public entities policing Utah’s and surrounding states’ roads have anything to do with it, the result will be zero fatalities.

Heavy traffic on Interstate 15 near Littlefield, Ariz., March 25, 2023 | File photo by Nick Yamashita, St. George News

In fact, the “Back to Basics of Safe Driving” campaign launched by the Utah Department of Transportation and Department of Public Safety emphasizes “Zero Fatalities” in its key points not only for holiday weekend drivers but for anyone venturing out on the state’s many roadways.

St. George Police Officer Tiffany Mitchell said all drivers should take a common-sense approach to safe driving, both during Memorial Day weekend and beyond.

“As the weather warms up and more people are out enjoying it, remember to watch for pedestrians, cyclists — and people on scooters is important,” Mitchell wrote in a text to St. George News. “Slow your roll and obey those speed limits. They are there to protect you and everyone else on the road.”

Mitchell added that “Memorial Day starts off summer and the hundred deadliest days. It also starts or continues our road construction season.” As such, she emphasized “driving sober, wearing seatbelts and not driving distracted.”

These practices are echoed in the Back to Basics program, which highlights “always wearing a seat belt, obeying road signs and traffic signals, keeping a safe distance from vehicles, maintaining a reasonable speed and avoiding texting or eating while driving so you can be aware of your surroundings.”

Construction projects are underway throughout Southern Utah. UDOT is warning travelers to expect delays both locally and throughout the state, and transportation departments in Arizona and Nevada are communicating similar alerts, especially along the Interstate 15 corridor.

Drivers heading to Las Vegas, which AAA said is one of the three most popular destinations for the holiday weekend, should expect delays about 2 miles south of the Arizona-Utah state line (milepost 27) due to the project on the I-15 Black Rock Road Bridge.

Map shows construction site on Interstate 15 between Littlefield, Ariz., and St. George, Utah | Map courtesy of Arizona Department of Transportation, St. George News

“This is expected to be the third busiest Memorial Day weekend since 2000, when AAA started tracking holiday travel,” Paula Twidale, senior vice president of AAA Travel, said in a news release. “More Americans are planning trips and booking them earlier, despite inflation. This summer travel season could be one for the record books, especially at airports.”  

AAA projects 42.3 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more from home this Memorial Day weekend, a 7% increase over 2022. This year, 2.7 million more people will travel for the unofficial start of summer compared with last year.  

Memorial Day road trips are up 6% over last year — 37.1 million Americans will drive to their destinations, an increase of more than 2 million. Gas prices are lower this holiday compared with last year. Despite the lower prices at the pump, car travel this holiday will be shy of pre-pandemic numbers by about 500,000 travelers. 

AAA reports the average price for 1 gallon of medium-grade fuel in Utah is $4.30, compared with $4.81 in 2022, while diesel sits at $4.05 and was $5.53 one year ago. In St. George, those numbers show a similar trend for mid-grade auto fuel: $4.19 currently vs. $4.92 last year.

The Federal Aviation Administration estimates flights across the country are expected to surpass 300,000 between Thursday, May 25, and Tuesday, May 30, 2023 | Chart courtesy of Federal Aviation Administration, St. George News

Nearly 3.4 million travelers are expected to fly to their destinations this Memorial Day, an increase of 11% over last year. Air travel over the holiday weekend is projected to exceed pre-pandemic levels, with 170,000 more passengers – or 5.4% more – than in 2019. Despite high ticket prices, demand for flights is skyrocketing. This Memorial Day weekend could be the busiest at airports since 2005. 

St. George Regional Airport’s flight schedule includes daily departures to and arrivals from Salt Lake City, Denver, Phoenix and Dallas-Fort Worth. And Cedar City Regional Airport will continue its Salt Lake City roundtrip service schedule, with a single flight on Saturday and two flights Sunday-Tuesday.

Those flying out are reminded, per the FAA’s guidelines, to allow plenty of time — two hours for domestic flights and three hours for international — for check-in and security. The FAA also urges air travelers to check the status of their flights, either by using apps specific to airlines or on the FAA flight status website.

According to AAA’s Memorial Day travel news release, travelers by train or bus are expected to total 1.85 million, an increase of 20.6% over 2022. 

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2023, all rights reserved.

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