Tips on timing getaways
Many travelers and many transportation experts offer tips on safe and relatively painless trips during the Memorial Day weekend and throughout the summer. It's striking that they almost always cite this advice: Picking your route is only part of the job. Picking the time you travel is at least as important.
If Thursday is your getaway day, be prepared for high heat, and then potentially strong thunderstorms at night. That's a cold front coming through. Showers are in the Capital Weather Gang's forecast throughout Friday. Saturday is a transition day, then the forecast looks real good for Sunday and Monday.
Picking your window
This advice on timing comes from David Buck, spokesman for the Maryland State Highway Administration: Holiday travel delays are generally most influenced by when someone travels, weather conditions and incidents, he said. He saw that AAA is estimating a 6.4 percent increase in travel this year, but noted that such estimates are relative: "Relative to whether it is raining, relative to traveling at 4 p.m. on Friday or 6 a.m. Saturday, relative to if there is a disabled truck on the shoulder or relative to the sun glare."
[Lon Anderson, director of Public and Government Relations at AAA Mid-Atlantic, will be online at 1 p.m. Thursday to discuss Memorial Day travel.]
Memorial Day Holiday travel tends to be more local, rather than distance. That's for Thanksgiving or Christmas. Most people tend to go to the beach, to a cookout or maybe to a parade, he said.
Generally speaking the same interstates that are congested every Friday are even more so the Friday before Memorial Day. However I-97 south toward Annapolis, US 50 east toward the Bay Bridge, MD 404 toward Delaware, I-70 and I-68 toward Deep Creek and I-95 north toward Delaware take the brunt of the extra traffic.
"The best advice is to avoid traveling during peak holiday travel times if at all possible, have a map (or maps) so if something does happen, you have multiple options, plan ahead using Web sites like www.roads.maryland.com, stay patient as incidents will occur as they do every day of the year, and make driving a full time responsibility," Buck said.
Among the online resources, I'd recommend the State Highway Administration's Web page for current traffic conditions. Virginia uses the 511 travel information system, which provides updates via phone (511 if calling in Virginia), Web and Twitter.
Planning and patience
If you do the first of those things, you're more likely to have the second thing. Far too often on holiday weekends, Buck said, drivers are involved in crashes caused by impaired driving, driving while texting, or road rage. All can be avoided if motorists make better decisions.
A bit of planning and advance car care (such as checking wiper fluid, oil, gas, lights, tire pressure) go a long way to avoiding extensive delays and major frustration, Buck said.
Worst travel times
The heaviest travel times for Memorial Day traditionally are Friday from 1 p.m. until 8 p.m. and most of the day on Monday, with the cookouts, parades and other outdoor activities, Buck noted. Thursday night rush hour is also likely to be heavier than normal. If it rains Friday, motorists should expect more substantial delays but it is going to be extremely heavy Friday regardless sun or rain, he predicted.
That's a pretty good start. Add your own advice below.
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