Planning Ahead for Memorial Day Closures & Traffic in Your City
More than 3 million Southern Californians will hit the highway on the forthcoming Memorial Day weekend (May 27). And they're likely to start earlier and stay away longer, according to some travel experts.
Those 3 million are the ones who'll be traveling more than 50 miles. Add to them, the millions who'll be taking a short road-trip to visit family or enjoy the celebrations and you have the recipe for the usual traffic snarl-ups and delays.
Journeys that are estimated to take up to three times longer than on a regular weekend mean frustrations, frayed tempers, road accidents and breakdowns. Nationwide, AAA expects to carry out around 340,000 road rescues over the weekend.
In fact, Memorial Day weekend is the most dangerous holiday for road and highway accidents, according to the National Coalition for Safer Roads. It's also a record time for speeding tickets and other citations. For instance, police report that there's more than one red light violation every second!
But the holiday doesn't have to be a challenge. With a bit of prudent advance planning, you can eliminate many of the problems and make the most of the unofficial start to summer.
How to Prep for Memorial Day Traffic
Here are some of the important actions you can take to minimize frustrating delays:
- Make sure your car is in good running order. The main causes of breakdowns are battery problems, flat tires and leaking cooling systems.
- Fuel up before the weekend starts so you don’t get stuck in those long lines at gas stations.
- Likewise, if you're renting an car for Memorial Day weekend, eat the cost of collecting it a day early and returning it a day late.
- Plan your route in advance. Identify possible bottlenecks -- especially around parades and events -- reduced lanes and road closures (see below for traffic information sources and apps). Also check in advance for parking locations.
- Try to avoid the busiest times on our highways…
The Worst Times to Travel on Memorial Day Weekend
Some transportation experts say the 2019 Memorial Day "weekend", will stretch further than ever for some, taking in both the Thursday and Tuesday either side of the traditional holiday. The getaway may even start on the Wednesday.
Even so, the busiest and therefore the absolute worst times to hit the road in LA and other metro areas are between 3 pm and 5 pm on the Friday and 2 pm to 4 pm on the Monday.
In both cases, congestion can start to build and remain high for a couple of hours either side of those times.
Tuesday from 4 pm to 6 pm is also expected to be busy.
Busiest getaway routes in Southern California are expected to include the 101 East, I5 South and I405 South.
Where to Find Info on Memorial Day Closures and Traffic Reports
These days, smartphone apps make it much easier than it used to be to track real-time traffic, from GPS-driven mapping software, through familiar favorites like Waze, to specialist apps like those from AAA and transportation analytics company INRIX.
Well before the weekend, check programs on your app store of choice, download a couple and test them. Most of them are free or have free versions and are available for both Android and iOS phones.
Check out this site for a list of the best traffic apps: https://tinyurl.com/traffic-apps
Other useful online resources include IE511.org, a joint project between Riverside and San Bernardino transportation authorities, and, of course, CALTRANS.
With CALTRANS, you can check specific highway conditions simply by entering the road numbers. To use this service, go to https://tinyurl.com/highway-check
CALTRANS also lists planned lane closures state-wide at: https://tinyurl.com/CAL-lane-closures
And for unincorporated areas of LA County, see https://dpw.lacounty.gov/roadclosures/
For road closure information.
Finally, of course, don’t forget to tune in to your favorite news radio station for up-to-the minute traffic reports. Or, look for roadside signs listing radio frequencies to use for special traffic reports.
But a few words of warning…
Safe Driving for Memorial Day Weekend
CHP will be out in force during the weekend because of the higher risk of violations and accidents, so it's a good time to put your wise driving habits into practice. So:
- Check weather and traffic reports before leaving.
- Leave early -- allow at least 50 percent more journey time.
- Avoid driving distractions -- that means no phone calls from anyone in the car, quiet entertainment for the kids, and taking breaks if you get tired.
- No drinking and driving. CHP will almost certainly step up their DUI patrols during the weekend.
- If you're driving locally, look for opportunities to car-pool.
- Carry emergency supplies, including a first aid kit, water, and items for dealing with a flat tire -- that could be a spare or a repair kit.
- Stay calm. We live (and drive) in the age of road rage. But losing your temper never, repeat, never solves a problem or settles a dispute. Keep the car and passengers cool and, if trouble arises, take deep breaths to avoid over-reacting.
Also, as we mentioned earlier, there are several great apps for delivering real-time traffic reports -- but beware the hazards of map re-routing.
Most apps are good at spotting problems but they're not always great at re-routing, sometimes taking you down roads and even tracks that might be unsuitable for some types of vehicles.
You can end up getting stuck, taking even longer or having to backtrack, so check revised routes carefully -- perhaps even double-checking on a paper map before following re-routing instructions.
Did we mention the importance of having good insurance protection for your car during Memorial Day weekend?
With higher accident risks than at any other time of the year please make sure you have the right protection for your vehicle.
Even the best and most careful drivers can get innocently caught up in accidents where others are to blame. And some of these drivers may not be insured, so check that you have uninsured and underinsured driver coverage.
Make sure too that you know the procedures to follow in the event of an accident.