- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 21, 2014

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) - Despite gas prices about 20 cents higher than a year ago, the AAA predicts highways in the Carolinas will be busier this weekend than on any Memorial Day in nearly a decade.

AAA-Carolinas on Wednesday forecast that almost 980,000 North Carolina motorists and 452,000 from South Carolina will travel more than 50 miles this holiday weekend, the highest numbers in nine years.

Tom Crosby, a spokesman for the motor club, says people are traveling in part because the economy is improving.

“That and because we had an exceptionally harsh winter and people want to get out,” he said. “People want to begin the summer that is usually considered a relaxing time for all of us.”

The most popular destinations for driving this weekend will be Myrtle Beach, South Carolina; followed by Charlotte, North Carolina; Gatlinburg, Tennessee; and Williamsburg, Virginia.

In North Carolina, gas prices are averaging 20 cents higher than a year ago while in South Carolina, gas is up 22 cents from Memorial Day 2013.

The motor club reports the average price for a gallon in North Carolina is $3.62. Gas is highest in Boone at $3.71 a gallon and cheapest in the Greensboro and Winston-Salem area at $3.59 a gallon.

In South Carolina, the average price is $3.46. The cheapest gas can be found in the Spartanburg area at $3.41 a gallon with the most expensive in Myrtle Beach with a price of $3.50 per gallon. The difference in the prices between the two states is largely South Carolina’s lower state gasoline tax.

The motor club said the most congested times for travel will be Friday afternoon and evening with traffic expected to pick up earlier in the day than usual this year. Monday evening will also be busy as travelers head home.

AAA expects more than 13,000 people will call for assistance in both Carolinas because their vehicles break down. AAA says that batteries will be weak after the cold winter and then cause problems for motorists driving in warm temperatures and in stop-and-go traffic.

David Parsons, the president and CEO of AAA Carolinas, urged motorists not to get stressed on congested highways.

“Relax by making sure your car is ready for the trip, be mentally prepared for traffic delays you may encounter on the way to your destination and take a rest break every couple of hours to remain physically alert,” he advised.

Last year 14 people died on North Carolina roadways during the Memorial Day holiday and 13 died in South Carolina.

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