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AAA: Memorial Day weekend volume ‘likely to set a record low’

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AAA on Thursday said it won’t even try to estimate the Memorial Day travel this year because of the COVID-19 coronavirus situation.

However, an AAA vice president indicated that collision repairers should expect a dismal collision frequency due to an absence of travelers, even though some states are removing restrictions upon residents.

Last year, AAA defined the Memorial Day Weekend as a Thursday-Monday block and predicted 43 million Americans on the road, a 3.6 percent increase and the No. 2 volume since AAA started studying the stat in 2000. The No. 1 Memorial Day Weekend for travelers occurred in 2005, according to AAA.

“With social distancing guidelines still in practice, this holiday weekend’s travel volume is likely to set a record low,” AAA Travel Senior Vice President Paula Twidale said in a statement.

2020 will be the first time in 20 years AAA hadn’t offered a projection of Memorial Day weekend travel. “(T)he accuracy of the economic data used to create the forecast has been undermined by COVID-19,” AAA wrote.

The worst Memorial Day tourism weekend so far has been 2009, the last year of last decade’s recession. A record low of nearly 31 million people traveled in the last year of last decade’s recession, according to AAA. 26.4 million rode in cars, with the rest divided between planes (2.1 million) and other modes of transportation (nearly 2 million).

The Insurance Information Institute cited ISO data to report that 2009 had the lowest collision and property damage claim frequencies in the decade ending in 2018.

The National Safety Council on Wednesday offered a similar assessment, predicting 366 deaths over the Friday-Monday Memorial Day weekend. “If the estimate holds, it will be the lowest number of fatalities for the holiday period since 2014,” the NSC wrote in a news release.

However, the NSC also has observed an increase in deaths per miles driven, theorizing it could be attributed to less-congested roads permitting faster driving — and more dangerous crashes.

“Disturbingly, we have open lanes of traffic and an apparent open season on reckless driving,” NSC CEO Lorraine Martin said in a statement. “Right now, in the midst of a global pandemic and crisis, we should take it as our civic duty to drive safely. If we won’t do it for ourselves, we should do it for our first responders, our law enforcement and our healthcare workers, who are rightly focused on coronavirus patients and should not be overwhelmed by preventable car crashes.”

Typically, more miles driven and greater congestion are positive trends for collision repair. Despite the dismal Memorial Day weekend prospects, both could improve soon, according to AAA.

“ online bookings have been rising, though modestly, since mid-April, suggesting travelers’ confidence is slowly improving,” AAA wrote. “When it is safe to travel, AAA predicts vacationers will have a preference for U.S destinations, mostly local and regional locations, and the great American road trip.”

AAA experts say Americans tend to have less interest in international travel during a presidential election year, and in February, a survey found 90 percent of 174 million Americans with summer travel plans had scheduled U.S. vacations.

Americans with more confidence (or freedom) to travel but a desire to stay within U.S. borders could foster the road travel collision repairers need to create crashes.

“AAA expects vacationers will gravitate to road trips and family bookings including air, car, hotel and activities to destinations in the U.S., Canada and Mexico,” AAA wrote in the news release. “Shortly thereafter, assuming international travel restrictions are lifted, we expect to see more demand for tropical destinations and a wider range of international travel.”

More information:

“AAA Travel: Pandemic Will Suppress Memorial Day Travel but Travelers Already Planning Future Trips”

AAA, May 14, 2020

“Hello, Summer: Nearly 43 Million Americans Will Kick off the Season with a Memorial Day Vacation”

AAA, May 15, 2019

“Motor Vehicle Fatality Rates Jump 14% in March Despite Quarantines”

National Safety Council, May 20, 2020

Featured image: Traffic is seen in Times Square on May 24, 2019, the Friday of 2019’s Memorial Day Weekend. (Nature, food, landscape, travel/iStock)

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