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Travel Up 3% Despite Gas Cost

About 80% of the 3million area residents who went more than 50miles over the holiday drove, experts say. Traffic deaths drop.

June 01, 2004|Erika Hayasaki | Times Staff Writer

About 3 million Southern Californians traveled at least 50 miles this Memorial Day weekend -- up 3% from last year -- despite higher gas prices and lingering terrorism concerns, according to the American Automobile Assn.

"People have gotten to the point where they feel more comfortable about traveling, and tend to go to where they consider are safe vacations," said Carol Thorp, spokeswoman for the Southern California Auto Club and AAA.

Nearly 80% of those travelers drove, Thorp said. But far fewer died on the roads compared with last year, the California Highway Patrol said.

There were three fatal traffic collisions in Los Angeles County between 6 p.m. Friday and 6 a.m. Monday, down from 12 during the same period last year. Statewide, 28 people died this year, compared with 48 in 2003.

More California Highway Patrol officers were on the road during the holiday weekend, looking for drunk drivers and enforcing the seat-belt law.

"We had an aggressive campaign this year," said Officer Francisco Villalobos. "But we have to also give credit to the drivers. Obviously, they were driving a little safer this year."

Thorp said gas prices were about 50 cents a gallon higher than last year, but that did not deter road trips because driving was still cheaper than flying. In fact, "demand overall is up," she said.

"This year, we are actually seeing a surge in all traveling, not just cars," Thorp said.

People booked 76.5% more cruises, 45.9% more tours and 62.3% more hotel rooms this year through AAA than during the same time in 2000 -- before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Thorp said.

Travel also jumped at Los Angeles International Airport over the weekend.

About 740,000 people passed through the airport between Friday and Monday, 12% more than last year, said spokeswoman Nancy Castles.

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Times staff writer Anna Gorman contributed to this report.

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