Holiday traffic to be heavy

LAWRENCEVILLE - The metro area's notoriously bad traffic usually gets worse during a holiday weekend.

If that holds true, Memorial Day weekend traffic should be a little worse than last year. That's because AAA projects there will be a 3.1 percent increase over last year in the number of Georgians traveling this weekend.

"There's no question the economy remains a major concern, but we are certainly seeing some signs of recovery," AAA spokesman Kevin Bakewell said. "There's a noticeable increase in the number of people coming into our branch offices in recent months to plan family vacations, cruises and tours, which supports the 'pent up demand' this research reflects."

Gas prices, down significantly from a year ago, are also putting more people on the road this weekend.

AAA's daily fuel gauge reported Wednesday that the average for a gallon of unleaded gasoline in Georgia is $2.21, with diesel coming in at $2.20. One year ago, regular unleaded cost $3.78 and diesel $4.51. With summer kicking off with the start of a holiday weekend, gas prices are on the rise. Just one month ago, the average for regular unleaded was $1.91 and diesel $2.18.

Nationwide, AAA predicts 32.4 million Americans will travel this weekend with, 908,000 in Georgia. Eighty-three percent of those travelers will take to the roads, and that means 757,000 of them will be Georgians. The sheer number of people driving means that driving safely is imperative to keeping the traffic flowing.

To help with this effort, Georgia's highway safety program launched its sixth annual H.E.A.T. program this week. Standing for Highway Enforcement of Aggressive Traffic, the program's goals are to prevent drivers from speeding and driving under the influence and to get everybody to wear their safety belts.

"The message to Georgia's high-risk drivers is clear," spokesman Bob Dallas of the Governor's Office of Highway Safety said. "Safety belt, DUI and speed law violations will not be tolerated. Our highway safety data shows speed, impaired driving and unbuckled drivers and passengers are still the top three causes of fatality crashes."

Lawrenceville resident Carol Verel is off to South Carolina for a friend's wedding, and she's already got her traffic strategy in place.

"I'm going to leave earlier than normal Friday to beat the morning traffic and then instead of coming home on Memorial Day, I'm coming home on Tuesday," she said.