Staff Reports


Memorial Day holiday travel is expected to be up from last year, and local law enforcement officers are expected to be looking for suspected intoxicated drivers.

AAA Texas anticipates 2.9 million Texans to travel more than 50 miles from home to celebrate the holiday. The number is up 1.1 percent from the same five-day travel period in 2012, according to a news release from AAA Texas.

Top surveyed activities include visiting friends and relatives, dining, shopping, touring, sightseeing and visiting waterfronts, according to AAA Texas.

Texans will travel an average of 829 miles round trip and spend an average of $567 on their vacations.

The percent of people traveling by car is up 2.4 percent to about 2.5 million. Percentages of people traveling by air is down 4.1 percent and travel by bus train or cruise ship is down 14.6 percent.

With an anticipated increase in drivers on the road, the Texas Department of Public Safety, the Tyler Police Department and the Smith County Sheriff's Office will participate in a no-refusal weekend for those who choose to drink and drive, according to a news release.

Through a grant, there will be an added police presence Friday through Monday.

"Memorial Day is a time of reverence and remembrance for all those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice in service to our nation," DPS Director Steven McCraw said in a news release. "DPS encourages Texans to mark the holiday responsibly by adhering to safe driving practices and by not drinking and driving. Troopers will be out in force, and are prepared to issue tickets to drivers disobeying traffic laws in an effort to keep our roadways safe."

After a suspected intoxicated driver is arrested, they will be asked to submit to a breath-alcohol test. If they refuse, an on-call judge will issue a warrant for a blood sample, which will be drawn by nurses at the Smith County Jail, the release states.

Anyone with a blood alcohol concentration of .08 or higher will be arrested for driving while intoxicated.

"This program has proven to be an effective tool to combat drunken drivers," Don Martin, Tyler police spokesman, said in a news release. "It is the intent of all law enforcement agencies that this effort will act as a deterrent, persuading people to avoid driving while intoxicated because they know that police officers will be conducting sobriety testing with or without driver's consent."

And drivers who are out and about will pay a higher premium at the gas pump.

The statewide average for a gallon of regular gas is $3.43, according to AAA Texas Weekend Gas Watch. That price is 2 cents more than last week and seven cents more than April, but is eight cents less than this time last year.

Amarillo has the highest gas price average at $3.74, and Corpus Christi has the lowest at $3.33, according to AAA Texas. The average price is 23 cents less than the national average of $3.66.

Memorial Day holiday marks the unofficial start to summer, and AAA Texas expects the demand for fuel to increase. They encourage drivers to be fuel efficient.

"If you're planning to drive to the coast, a state park or to see friends or family in another city, we recommend you make sure your vehicle is maintained according to the manufacturer recommendations before you head out," AAA Texas and New Mexico Representative Doug Shupe said in a news release. "Also, we remind people to pack all their bags inside the vehicle and not on the roof to reduce drag, and also travel the speed limit to conserve on your fuel."


DPS has the following tips for safe travel:

Slow down – especially in bad weather, construction areas, heavy traffic and unfamiliar areas.

Eliminate distractions, and don't text while driving.

Buckle up everyone in the vehicle – it's the law.

Don't drive fatigued, and allow plenty of time to reach your destination.

Drive defensively, as holiday travel may present additional challenges.

Make sure your vehicle is properly maintained before your trip begins.

Slow down or move over for tow trucks and police, fire and EMS vehicles stopped on the side of the road with emergency lights activated – it's the law.


Mothers against Drunk Driving East Texas released the following safety tips:

• Plan a safe way home. Arrange a sober ride home, or offer to be the designated driver.

• Wear a seat belt. Seat belt usage is one of the best ways to stay safe on the road.

• Don't call or text. Any form of impaired driving poses a serious threat to those on the road.

• Slow down. Respect all posted speed limits.

• Be aware. Pay attention to other drivers on the road and avoid those driving erratically.


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