Motorists venturing out on an early summer excursion this Memorial Day weekend will find cheaper gas prices compared to a year ago, but there’s a chance the costs could nudge upward over the next few days.
The upcoming holiday unofficially kicks of the summer season, a traditional time families go out of town for a little rest and relaxation.
Auto club AAA expects about 1.2 million Virginia residents will head out, marking a 6% increase over last year when gas prices averaged about $4.46 a gallon in the commonwealth.
As of Monday, Virginia’s average for gallon of fuel was $3.30.
Locally, Danville residents were paying about $3.15 a gallon to fill up their tanks. It’s about 9 cents more expensive on average over in Pittsylvania County.
“In the run up to Memorial Day, the national average price of gas has seen little overall movement over the last week,” Patrick De Haan, a spokesperson for GasBuddy, said in a statement. “We’ve seen more states see prices climb than fall, which has been driven by oil’s volatility as debt ceiling discussions are ongoing.”
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Depending on talks in Washington surrounding the debt ceiling, it’s possible gas prices could rise closer to Memorial Day, De Haan speculates, especially if there are “positive developments.”
On the other hand, “pessimism could drive prices slightly lower,” he said.
When it comes to traveling for Memorial Day, AAA uses a distance of 50 miles or more to determine a trip. This weekend, the auto club predicts it’ll be the busiest since 2019.
The majority of those travelers will be on the roads, but air travel also is projected to set a new Memorial Day record in Virginia.
“If the Memorial Day forecast numbers are an indicator for what we can expect for the summer, it could be a very busy season at the airports,” Morgan Dean, a spokesperson for AAA Mid-Atlantic, said Monday.
AAA believes that 100,000 Virginia residents will take the the skies this weekend, a 10% jump from last year.
Across the nation, about 42.3 million Americans are on track — according to AAA — to travel for a holiday outing this year, making it just 1% lower from pre-pandemic numbers in 2019.
Despite wobbles with gas prices, De Haan doesn’t think America will return to the sky-high prices of last summer.
“I continue to be optimistic that the national average will remain under $4 per gallon for most of, if not the entire summer, with Americans spending a combined $1.6 billion less on gasoline over Memorial Day weekend this year compared to last,” he said.
With more on the roads, Virginia State Police are putting the focus on safety.
On Monday, the statewide agency announced the start of its Click It or Ticket campaign, pointing to the fact that more than 18% of Virginians don’t wear seat belts.
Last year, there were 375 deaths attributed to unrestrained individuals, state police report.
“The roads of Virginia will be very busy this weekend with holiday travelers, and that means there’s a greater potential for crashes,” Dean said. “We want everyone to be safe. We encourage drivers to limit distractions, obey the speed limit, and make sure they buckle up everyone in the vehicle before they set out on that Great American Road Trip.”
According to state from state police, residents age 21-30 comprised up 68% of unrestrained fatalities. In addition, the highest number of fatalities among people not wearing seat belts happened between midnight and 3 a.m.
The program runs through June 4 to highlight awareness of buckling up. There will be messages along roads with messages courtesy of the Virginia Department of Transportation.
“Buckling up is not merely a legal obligation,” Col Gary T. Settle, Virginia State Police superintendent, said in a statement. “Wearing a seat belt is an act of self-preservation.”