RDU, state highway patrol prepare for high-volume traffic with Memorial Day travel underway

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Saturday, May 25, 2024
Memorial Day: travel tips, boating safety, and traffic
State highway patrol prepare for high-volume traffic as millions of Americans are expected to hit the road.

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- One of the busiest travel times of the year is Memorial Day weekend.

North Carolina State Highway Patrol is preparing as millions of Americans are expected to hit the road Memorial Day weekend.

Tricia Kessler of Raleigh is going to Morehead Beach to celebrate her daughter's birthday.

"We always celebrate with family down there," Kessler said. "So, what does it look like on the road?... It's awful."

Raleigh-Durham International Airport is also expecting about 300,000 travelers to fly in and out of the airport this weekend. This is up eight percent from last year.

The holiday weekend is a long-awaited reunion for Jan Giungue and her grandson, Miles Girard. He took the sky for the very first time and is going to be visiting the family farm from Dallas.

"I'm going to be here vacation for nine days and working - they're going to put me to a lot of work," Girard said.

"Yard, garden, animals, yes -- pool," Giungue added.

RDU authority said it is working with airlines and TSA to make things run as smoothly as possible.

On the road? Here are the best times to leave.

According to AAA, the busiest times to travel are:

  • Thursday/Friday 12 to 7 p.m.
  • Saturday 2 to 5 p.m.
  • Sunday/Monday 3 to 7 p.m.

Some drivers, like Abie Harris of Raleigh, decided to go to Wrightsville Beach earlier in the week to avoid the crowds.

"I don't travel much. I mean, this was just a spontaneous trip to go down, getting out, get to see the ocean," he said. "I would not want to go during the holiday, just traffic -- and avoiding the crowds."

WATCH | Traffic on U.S. 1 Northbound Friday morning

According to AAA, the average cost for a gallon of gas in North Carolina is $3.35. That's four cents cheaper than a month ago, but more than this time last year.

In Wake County, the average cost is slightly higher at $3.43.

Travel Tips

The number one tip: slow it down.

Speeding was a factor in 356 traffic fatalities last year in North Carolina.

State Highway Patrol has increased its presence on the roads to deter speeding, impaired and distracted driving, and ensure seatbelt usage.

In 2023, troopers working Memorial Day responded to 11 fatal crashes.

First Sergeant Chris Knox identified I-95, I-40, and I-85 as the problem areas. Drivers are headed to the coast and mountains.

"Sometimes a reminder of just seeing that patrol car is all that's needed to remind them to operate at the speed limit," he said. "They might not get where they're going as fast, but they're going to get there safely."

Sergeant John Moore with the Wake County Sheriff's Office said things will pick up closer to the lakes.

He reminded drivers to be mindful of ongoing road work. Orange barrels will remain in place even if no work is scheduled over the holiday weekend.

"If you see the barrels, you see the signs, know that the speed limit is going to be reduced dramatically," Moore said.

"If you see that sign that says the lanes are going to end, please go ahead and start merging over. Don't wait till the last second."

State Highway Patrol is teaming up with the NC Governor's Highway Safety Program's 'Click It or Ticket' campaign, focusing on seat belts and child restraint violations.

Boating Safety

Like roadways, operating a boat under the influence of drugs and alcohol can be just as dangerous.

Wake County Sheriff's Sergeant Chris Main, who works on Falls Lake, said he has seen what can happen when people aren't safe when boating.

WATCH | Officials talk boat safety ahead of Memorial Day weekend

"This is a recreational activity, but you have to do it responsibly," Wake County Sheriff's Sergeant Chris Main said.

"This is a recreational activity, but you have to do it responsibly," he said.

North Carolina law prohibits anyone from boating while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. This includes operating any boat, sailboat, water skis, or similar device.

Large fines and possibly jail time can happen if you are arrested and convicted for boating under the influence of alcohol or drugs.


Storms are possible across the weekend.

Sunday looks a bit hotter with temperatures reaching the low 90s.