Record number of travelers to hit the road over Memorial Day weekend

May 25—Brace yourself, Kern County: This Memorial Day weekend is projected to go down in the history books as the busiest travel holiday since record-keepers of such information started keeping tabs on the numbers.

Specifically, AAA predicted 3.3 million Southern Californians will go more than 50 miles away from their home these next few days, which is a 7.7 percent increase from last year, said Marie Montgomery, a spokeswoman with the Auto Club of California. This number is a slight uptick since 2019, prior to the pandemic disrupting normal lifestyles, she added.

Many vacationers feel they've lost out on time away because of the pandemic, and then steep inflation caused prices to soar, she said.

"They're making up for lost time," Montgomery said Thursday. It's a priority for many to luxuriate with friends and family members.

The majority of the approximately 3 million travelers will drive a car. About 350,000 people will fly and 230,000 individuals are predicted to be on a cruise, bus, train and other means of transportation, she added.

Gas prices still hover above normal for this time of year, Montgomery said. Cost this year has dropped below the record high many people were paying last year, about $6 per gallon, but still rank at the second-highest prices have ever been for this time of year.

There has also been an increase in cars breaking down because residents are holding onto their cars longer, Montgomery said. AAA expects about 116,000 people will call for roadside assistance over this three-day holiday. Most people call for help regarding a tire blowout, a battery issue or accidentally locking their keys inside their vehicle, she noted.

Montgomery also issued tips for travelers hitting the road:

* Car batteries start to wear down about three to five years after a car is bought, so be sure to have it checked out before a road trip.

* Inspect tires, fluid levels and do a general checkup so you're not one of the 116,000 who could be stranded on the road.

* Have water, food and a first-aid kit handy when driving a long distance in case something does go awry.

* Try to make sure your phone is fully charged before beginning a trip.

For those choosing to fly, Montgomery recommends:

* Arriving two hours before a domestic flight and three hours before an international one.

* Reserving parking ahead of time so unforeseen factors don't delay your arrival time inside the airport.

* Avoid checking in a bag to avoid it getting lost if there are cancellations or delays.

"It's so busy this time of year," she added of airports.

Local law enforcement agencies noted more officers will monitor the roads for intoxicated driving and other driving malpractices. There will be three DUI and driver's license checkpoints on Friday in Kern County.

Bakersfield Police Department officers will look for motorists and passengers not wearing a seat belt. This also includes children not properly sitting in their car seats, the BPD said.

California law dictates a child under 8 years old or at least 4 feet, 9 inches tall must be sitting in a safety or booster seat. Kids under 2 years old must sit facing the back of the car unless the child weighs more than 40 pounds or is more than 40 inches tall, the BPD added.

BPD officers are scheduled to screen motorists during a DUI and driver's license checkpoint Friday in Bakersfield. Drivers will be examined for signs of alcohol or drug impairment, with proper licensing. Illegal narcotics, prescription drugs and over-the-counter medications can lead to intoxicated driving, the BPD said.

It added drivers caught with a DUI can face consequences, which include jail time, fees exceeding $10,000 and DUI classes.

The California Highway Patrol will also conduct two DUI and driver's license checkpoints Friday.

One checkpoint will happen in an unincorporated part of Bakersfield from 5 to 11 p.m. Officers will look for signs of alcohol or drug impairment while also screening driver's licenses.

Another checkpoint will be conducted in an unincorporated area of eastern Kern, such as Tehachapi, Rosamond, Boron, Ridgecrest and Mojave, from 6 p.m. Friday to 2 a.m. Saturday.

"Driving impaired from any substance is selfish and can lead to devastating consequences," said Lt. Maria Pagano, commander of the CHP Mojave-area office. "Be responsible and designate a sober driver."

You can reach Ishani Desai at 661-395-7417. You can also follow her at @_ishanidesai on Twitter.