LIMA — More Ohioans will hit the highway this holiday weekend and local law enforcement agencies have increased patrols in preparation.
The latest study from AAA predicts 32.1 million travelers nationwide this weekend, an increase from last year’s 30.5 million.
Travel on Ohio’s rural highways will also increase by 15 percent this weekend, according to the Ohio Department of Transportation.
“The major routes in our district will be pretty free-flowing over the Memorial Day weekend,” ODOT public information officer Rhonda Pees said. Interstate “75 will have no restrictions through Allen and Hancock County in our district, and the other four-lane routes will not have major work either. So travel should be pretty good for the Memorial Day holiday.”
The Ohio State Highway Patrol and Allen County Sheriff’s Office, Auglaize County Sheriff’s Office, Putnam County Sheriff’s Office, and Lima and Elida police departments, along with several other agencies, will be keeping a close watch along the major routes.
“We have encouraged our units to be more vigilant, to remain aggressive toward crash causing violations and seat belt usage,” said Sgt. Rick Sanchez, of the Lima post of the Ohio State Highway Patrol.
Statewide, law enforcement will be focusing on the Click It or Ticket campaign. Ohio has an 84 percent compliance rate with seat belt laws and Sanchez said they hope to meet the 85 percent goal this weekend.
“We would actually like to exceed that goal and make this one of the safest holidays in recent memory,” Sanchez said.
Christine Pleva, executive director of the Lima/Allen County Convention & Visitors Bureau said the area is at a prime location on I-75 for north and south traffic and Route 30 for east and west travelers.
“We’re a perfect stopping point for people wanting to come off the highway and see what we have to offer here and get information and find out what there is to see and do,” she said.
Pleva said traveling trends have also been changing in recent years.
“We’re seeing more travelers staying within maybe 50- to 100-mile radius of their own home, and though they are still traveling, maybe they are traveling for a shorter period of time, so they’re length of stay might not be as long,” Pleva said.
Gasbuddy.com, a website for searching local gas prices, predicted average gasoline prices over the weekend will be 30 cents more per gallon this year than last. That is still the cheapest on record since 2006.
Defiance resident Kathy Handy, 53, said gas prices affect her travel plans.
“That all goes into it,” she said, adding that additional travel costs add up.
Handy will be spending the weekend at Jellystone Park in Fremont, Ind., and staying at a lake cottage she owns.
“I’m just glad the weather’s going to hold up,” she said.
Delphos resident Ron weaver, 65, said the holiday weekend crept up on him and he will be staying in the area.
“I’m just going to visit with my in-laws and that’ll be about it,” he said.