The three-day weekend will move many to hit the roads, rivers and lakes this weekend — even with record-breaking averages on the price of gasoline — so the Missouri State Highway Patrol (MSHP) and AAA are offering advice and information for Memorial Day travelers: Buckle up, observe the laws, and save more on gas by slowing down.
“We know Memorial Day weekend is a weekend when families typically start their summer vacationing and they’ll be traveling all over Missouri, if not the nation,” said Corporal Dallas Thompson with MSHP. “We’re expecting to see high volumes of traffic and we’ll be out in force accordingly, trying to be as visible as possible so that maybe it inspires people to voluntarily comply with traffic laws.”
He said Friday and Monday evenings especially, people should expect to see the familiar patrol cars in action. According to a news release issued by the MSHP, troopers will focus their attention on hazardous moving violations, speed violations, and impaired drivers. Every trooper who is available will be on the road enforcing traffic laws and helping motorists.
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Over the 2021 Memorial Day holiday weekend, 10 people died and 442 were injured in 1,017 traffic crashes. In addition to being the unofficial beginning of summer, the Memorial Day weekend is also seen by many as the start to the boating season. Last year’s Memorial Day racked up 12 boating crashes that included one fatality and three injuries, and one person drowned. Over the weekend, troopers made 57 driving-while-intoxicated and eight boating-while-intoxicated arrests.
“We know people will be drinking adult beverages this weekend, we just ask, if they’re going to drink, please do so responsibly and find a sober driver,” Thompson said. “Many people will be out on the water, so that goes for boating, too. Boat accidents can happen so quickly that people don’t have time to grab a life vest, so they should also make sure they’re wearing a properly-fitting life vest at all times.”
Motorists or boaters in need of assistance or who want to report a crime should use the Highway Patrol’s Emergency Assistance number 1-800-525-5555 or *55 on a cellular phone. For road condition reports, travelers can visit the Patrol’s website at www.statepatrol.dps.mo.gov. Click on the Road Condition icon to view road construction areas as well as road conditions throughout the state or call 1-888-275-6636.
“Inattentive or distracted driving causes many accidents, as people are fumbling with cell phones or passengers are distracting them,” Thompson said. “But one of the leading causes of fatal crashes is speed.”
It just so happens, reducing speed is one of the chief ways motorists can economize on fuel expenses.
Nick Chabarria, public affairs specialist with AAA of Missouri, said while Missouri is the fifth-lowest in terms of gas prices, the “pain at the pump” is still very real.
“Pain at the pump continues as crude oil remains elevated above $110 per barrel with no signs of dropping in time to impact pump prices over the holiday weekend,” said Chabarria. “Even with higher prices, drivers should expect roads to be busy this weekend and make sure they leave plenty of time to get where they are going safely.”
With the statewide gas price average at $4.17 for a gallon of regular unleaded fuel, as of Thursday morning. St. Louis drivers are paying the most on average at $4.43 while drivers in Kansas City are paying the least at $3.98 per gallon.
The national average price for a gallon of regular unleaded is $4.60, which is one cent more compared to this day last week and $1.57 more than the price per gallon at this same time last year, according to AAA Gas Prices.
Missouri drivers might be paying the fifth-lowest prices on average, nationally, but for this state, they’re record-high gas prices not just for Memorial Day, but ever. The statewide average price, $4.17 per gallon, has set or tied a new record high for the last 16 consecutive days.
Even so, the hit to the wallet appears not to be dampening the yearning to roam this weekend. AAA predicts about 790,897 Missourians will travel from May 26-30, with 701,135 (89%) taking road trips. That’s a 10% increase in the total number of Memorial Day travelers from last year.
With her toddler Paisley Cole, Brittany Russell of Farmington pumped about $10 worth of gas Thursday at a gas station on Columbia Street and called the prices “ridiculous.”
“I just bought this car two weeks ago,” said Russell, who added she is 28 weeks pregnant with a boy. “The prices are kind of a struggle. Especially on top of the baby formula thing, this is getting tough.”
What’s a driver to do? AAA offers tips to save money on fuel.
Bad driving is unsafe, but it’s also expensive. Studies have repeatedly shown that personal driving habits are the single biggest factor that affects vehicle fuel consumption. Adopting new and improved driving behaviors can contribute to significant savings at the gas pump.
- Slow down and drive the speed limit. Higher speeds result in more aerodynamic drag.
- Avoid “jackrabbit” starts and hard accelerations. These actions greatly increase fuel consumption.
- Use cruise control on the highway to help maintain a constant speed and save fuel. Never use cruise control on slippery roads, though, because it’s easier to lose control of the vehicle.
- Minimize the use of air conditioning.
- Avoid extended idling.
- Maintain the vehicle according to the manufacturer’s recommendations. Regular service will ensure optimum fuel economy.
- Make sure tires are properly maintained and inflated to the correct level.
- When driving in town, adjust speed to “time” the traffic lights, which reduces repeated braking and acceleration that consume additional fuel.
- Try “hypermiling.” When approaching a red light or stop sign, take the foot off the gas early and allow the vehicle to coast down to a slower speed until it’s time to pump the brake.
- Download the AAA App to find the cheapest gas prices in the immediate vicinity.
Sarah Haas is the assistant editor for the Daily Journal. She can be reached at 573-518-3617 or [email protected]
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