With summer vacations thrown off this year by the COVID-19 pandemic, AAA still estimates New Englanders will take almost 38 million road trips this summer, and with the Fourth of July weekend approaching, this will be one of the most packed weekends on the road.
Road travel is down across the country, but New England is projected to see just a two percent drop in road travel this summer while it could be as high five percent or more in other regions.
“This summer we will see the return of the Great American Road Trip, with most New Englanders expected to actually take multiple road trips between now and the end of September,” Amy Paramenter, spokesperson for AAA in Greater Hartford, said. “Instead of just one major summer getaway planned and booked long in advance, travelers will be taking more trips that are planned seven days to just 48 hours before departure.”
Road trips are expected to comprise approximately 97 percent of all summer travel for New Englanders because the coronavirus pandemic offers few other transportation options that many deem safe for families.
Paramenter, Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz, Randy Fiveash, director of the Connecticut Office of Tourism, Christine Jeltema, trooper in the Connecticut State Police and Katie Dykes, commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, spoke at a press conference Wednesday designed to make sure drivers are prepared for every foreseeable problem on the road.
AAA’s largest recommendation for a successful vacation is planning ahead. With hotels, campgrounds, parks and other attractions all having limited capacities and enforced social distancing policies, having reservations and other plans is vital to a vacation running smoothly. Planning ahead also requires having all of the proper materials to comply with the COVID-19 laws of any states travelers may drive through.
“I want to thank the people of Connecticut for taking all of the safety protocols with mask wearing and social distancing so seriously because it has put us in a very good place,” Bysiewicz said. “As we look at other states seeing spikes, we continue to see our metrics move in the right direction with reduced infection rates, fatalities and people in the hospital. All of that is really good news, but we need to keep those good practices going.”
AAA also encourages everyone to have their car checked before going on vacation to avoid breakdowns. Last summer, AAA responded to more than 80,000 calls for emergency roadside assistance in the greater Hartford area and more than half of them needed a tow.
AAA’s keys to staying on the road this summer are get the car’s battery, tires and fluids checked and assemble an emergency kit including jumper cables, a fully charged cell phone, road flares or emergency beacon, first aid kit, flashlight with extra batteries, extra water and nonperishable food and extra medications.
Road safety also includes defensive driving. Due to the decrease in people on the road due to the pandemic, Jeltema said state police saw an increase in speeding and she wanted to remind people to be weary of the speedometer as the roads begin to fill again.
“With the reopening, we are seeing an increase in the motorists on our highways and we found motorists are speeding a lot more,” Jeltema said. “We are asking our motorists while they are in the state of Connecticut traveling over this holiday weekend to watch their speed limit, to obey that speed limit.”
One destination that will see plenty of people this weekend are parks. Dykes stated the parks department is monitoring the number of people at the parks so some may be closed during prime hours because they have reached capacity. The parks department has an online resource with real-time information about which parks are open whether they are filled.
Most importantly, Dykes wants everyone to remember that just because they are on vacation does not mean the pandemic is over.
“When you’re headed to the park this weekend and every weekend make sure you bring your mask,” Dykes said. “We encourage people to come in small groups, just the members of your household if you can and maintain that distance of six feet. The same rules that apply in normal life are also applying when you visit our parks.”
AAA recommends wearing gloves or another hand covering while using gas pumps and cleaning one’s hands with hand sanitizer or wipes after using. AAA also provides a list of hotels known for best sanitation practices for anyone still in need of a safe place to stay on their vacation.
“Millions of Americans including New Englanders will hit the road this summer and Connecticut is uniquely positioned to take advantage of this,” Fiveash said. “Our proximity to our surrounding states makes us a particular attractive road trip destination for road trip visitors.”