1.4 million Ohioans to kick off summer travel this weekend

LIMA —Memorial Day weekend kicks off the unofficial start to the summer and with that comes a lot of travel that should continue strong throughout a summer of vacations.

For Ohioans, though, there are a number of important things to watch out for.

“Memorial Day begins what is, unfortunately, the 100 deadliest days on the road,” Ohio State Highway Patrol Superintendent Colonel Charles Jones said in a new release. “Working together, we can change that. Focus on the road, buckle up, drive sober and obey the speed limit.”

AAA is expecting almost 37 million people to travel for the holiday, including 1.4 million Ohioans, and that is an increase.

“So typically the holiday is an indication for the rest of the summer so we’re expecting that the rest of the summer, travel and traffic will be up,” AAA Public and Government Affairs Manager Kara Hitchens said. “Gas prices are pretty good and it’s looking like oil prices are down a bit. Demand is just getting started, but even though we do expect fluctuation, it won’t be much fluctuation.”

The Highway Patrol said that 17 people died on Ohio roads during last year’s Memorial Day holiday.

The Ohio Department of Transportation said that travel delays will still be likely due to over 1000 construction projects scheduled, despite work to suspend or reduce the size of work zones, but that travelers can minimize the impact of these obstacles with a few easy steps.

“Roads will be packed with travelers,” ODOT Director Jack Marchbanks said in the same release. “Planning ahead and being patient will be key. Above all, we want everyone to be safe and arrive at their destination.”

Planning ahead will help beyond just traffic.

Even though Ohio is set to have a significantly dry summer, Accuweather Senior Meteorologist Paul Pastelok said that sever weather could pop up in bunches throughout the months of June, July and August, presenting a significant thing to look out for as Ohioans plot their vacations.

“There are positives and negatives to the dry weather,” he said. “The positives are that the weather doesn’t look all that bad and severe, meaning it will be comfortable for activities like camping and exercising outside, but the negatives are that farmers will not have a lot of water for planting and this is a critical time for that. We need to start seeing some water and we may not have a lot of that coming up at least in the first part of the season, but we may still get severe weather picking up and maybe our opportunities for some rain. It just may come in bunches with downpours and thunderstorms.”

Pastelok said that travelers will want to make sure that tires are fit for severe weather and that they plan out spots along their routes to stop and pull over in case of an extreme event. Vacationers may want to do an indoor activity if there is severe weather, but plenty will enjoy spending time on the water at Ohio’s state parks and other bodies.

“Whether it’s sailing off the coast of Lake Erie or cruising on an inland lake, Ohio State Parks is full of fun opportunities for boaters,” Ohio Department of Natural Resources Director Mary Mertz said in a news release. “We want to make sure everyone stays safe by wearing life jackets, staying alert and steering clear of alcohol.”

The ODNR and National Safe Boating Council, to that end prescribed the following tips: wear a life jacket, check equipment, make a float plan, use an engine cutoff device, watch the weather, know what is going on around you at all times, know where you are going and travel at safe speeds, never boat under the influence and keep in touch.

Find more information on road conditions and traffic alerts in Ohio by visiting ODOT’s website.

For more information on keeping a car in good condition for travel, visit the AAA website.

Reach Jacob Espinosa at 567-242-0399.