Every year, Labor Day brings with it the opportunity to salute American workers while enjoying one final three-day weekend to mark the unofficial end of summer. It’s simultaneously a festive and wistful time, when the extra day off work is combined with the knowledge that summer is rapidly fading.
All of which makes it all the more important to get as much out of Labor Day weekend as you can. If you’re celebrating the weekend with a getaway that’s big, small, or somewhere in between, here’s what travelers can expect for summer’s last hurrah.
Cheap Gas Prices
Prices at the pump have been rising lately, with the national average up to about $2.22 for a gallon or regular. That’s 8¢ higher than a month ago, and roughly 30¢ more than the low point reached in early 2016. Still, drivers are paying extremely cheap prices for gas in the grand scheme. We are paying more than 25¢ per gallon less than this same time a year ago, and gas prices for Labor Day 2016 will be the cheapest they’ve been for the holiday weekend since 2004. GasBuddy estimates that during the course of the summer, American drivers have collectively saved $18.9 billion in gas money compared to last year.
Danger on the Roads
Unfortunately, cheaper gas tends to cause some unfortunate consequences. One is that there are more drivers on the roads, which naturally leads to more accidents and fatalities (and higher auto insurance rates). According to the National Safety Council (NSC), the number of motor vehicle deaths rose 9% in the first six months of 2016, compared with the same period the year before. The increase in accidents and traffic fatalities has been on the upswing since 2014, a period that roughly overlaps with a dramatic decrease in gas prices. For the busy three-day 2016 Labor Day weekend, the NSC is forecasting that 483 people will die on the roads, the highest total since 2008.
Drunk Driving (and Drunk Driving Arrests)
The holiday weekend is of course a big time to gather with friends, go to parties, and hit the bars. And it’s a time when more than the usual number of drivers shouldn’t be behind the wheel of a car. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data indicates that over 750 people have died in drunk driving accidents over Labor Day weekends from 2010 to 2014, and that 83% of drunk driving Labor Day deaths happen between 6 p.m. and 5:59 a.m. The obvious takeaway is to not drive when you’ve had too much to drink, and to avoid the roads as it gets later in the day if you can.
Take note also that, as with other holidays like Memorial Day and the Fourth of July, police all over the country are increasing enforcement this weekend with widespread DUI checkpoints. In some cases, DUI checkpoints have already gotten under way. Prepare ahead so you have a safe ride home. If you’re in a real jam, check out AAA’s holiday safe ride program, which helps under-the-influence drivers get home for free without putting themselves or anyone else in danger.
The last holiday weekend of the summer comes with its share of stresses because, well, it’s the last holiday weekend of the summer. According to a survey conduced for Priceline, 30% of millennials aren’t happy with the pressure they’re under to attend family events this weekend, the highest percentage of any age group stressed by the guilt of having to spend time with family. Among those ages 35 to 54, their biggest Labor Day weekend worry is the struggle to find an affordable place to vacation. Saddest of all is the 15% of those surveyed who say they feel compelled to work this weekend.
Very Busy Airports
The industry group Airlines for America estimates that 15.6 million passengers will be boarding flights during the 2016 Labor Day holidays, a 4% increase over last year. The busiest day of all for flights will be Friday, September 2, while the next day, Saturday, September 3, will see the lightest traffic among airline travelers. As for the busiest airport in the country this weekend, that title goes to Atlanta, which will be the departure point for 1.1 million flyers over the Labor Day holidays.
Maybe Some Really Bad Weather
Sometimes Mother Nature doesn’t cooperate with Labor Day weekend getaways. There are two tropical depressions under watch that are likely to bring tons of rain and stormy seas to the Southeast and Gulf Coast this week, plus Hawaii is under a hurricane watch. As the systems move up the East Coast, beachgoers could be bummed as there’s a likelihood of a tropical storm or cyclone reaching somewhere around Delaware by this weekend. The tropical system may wind up bringing rain and strong winds to Michigan and much of the Midwest this weekend as well.
Definitely Some Really Bad Traffic
Labor Day weekend, and especially Labor Day itself, is always ranked among the worst times to be on the roads because of increased traffic, as well as the dangers mentioned above. To beat the worst of the traffic,
plot your getaway carefully. Take off Thursday rather than Friday if you can, and if you must be on the roads on Saturday, Sunday, or especially on Monday, get the earliest start possible.