On the road again

With warmer days making an appearance and a holiday weekend approaching, travel is inevitable, and this coming Memorial weekend is no exception as AAA is expecting the number of travelers to increase.

AAA estimates that about 36.1 million motorists will drive a minimum of 50 miles this weekend for Memorial Day festivities, a 1.5 percent increase from the 35.5 million of last year. About 88 percent are expected to drive to their destinations.

Bonnie and Bill Bricer, of New Lebanon, will not be a part of the travel, having completed their Memorial Day trip already.

“As far as I know, we’re not going anywhere,” said Bill, 67. “We’re traveling this week to beat the hubbub.”

“We’ve been there already,” added Bonnie, 65. “We were in Grantsville, W.Va. (visiting family). We came back by way of Weston, where my parents are buried and did our memorial thing and now we’re headed home.”

George Millerschoen, external services manager for AAA East Central, said that there are many things drivers should do to prepare for a trip before they actually get on the road.

“(Tires are) always one of those things that rarely get checked,” Millerschoen said. “Correct tire pressure is huge on wear and handling. A lot of tires have tire monitoring gauges which tells you if pressure is too low or too high; it tells you there’s something wrong with tire pressure.”

Millerschoen said it’s important to check the engine and make sure there’s no corrosion visible, which is evident of a leak, and that belts and hoses aren’t cracked.

“Check wiper blades, both driver and passenger sides, check that the cooling system is clean and up to the proper level. Check your oil and transmission levels, which goes without saying.”

It’s really important to make sure any children that may be in the car are safely belted in, said Millerschoen.

“Protect your children,” he said. “It’s really important to make sure car seats are installed properly.”

Millerschoen said that after getting on the road, there is one thing of major importance.

“While driving, stay focused,” he said. “If you answer a text, you take your eyes off the road. If you can have your phone synced, sync it to the car. If not, pull over, stop and (check it).”

Also be aware of others on the road, whether it’s with motorcycles, pedestrians or bicyclists, said Millerschoen.

“You have to share the road,” he said.

Those making treks away from home should also have emergency kits with medications, water, first aid supplies, flashlights and energy bars.

Kathy Bricker, 67, and her husband Paul, 73, of Cleveland, were traveling home from Florida Monday afternoon.

“We’ve been down (in Florida) for a while; we’re snowbirds,” said Kathy.

Paul said that having just come back, he and Kathy weren’t going anywhere to celebrate the holiday.

“We’re going to spend Memorial Day at home,” Paul added.

Those who plan to hit the road for the holiday will keep an eye on gas prices.

According to Patrick DeHaan, senior petroleum analyst for Gasbuddy.com, expect a spike.

“If there’s any increase, it’s not because it’s a holiday,” DeHaan said. “Prices spiked…about every week and a half,” he said. “The last one was about the 15th. That puts us in ripe territory for a price hike later this week. That’s just the way things are; prices have a tendency… regardless of the season to go up a time or two.”

DeHaan said that moving toward summer, the trend will likely continue.

“A lot of what we’re seeing, first of all, prices go up and down,” he said. “That trend will likely continue happening. In Ohio and Marietta, last year you saw prices approaching $4. You’ll probably see prices a little lower. People probably aren’t going to feel much relief.”

DeHaan said that toward July and August to expect a jump because of hurricane season, and that anything is possible based on what the wholesale price of oil is.

“(Marietta has) likely already hit its peak,” said DeHaan, but added, “It’s possible prices could drift higher again.”