|CNN's Kalin Thomas-Samuel reports on the safety of air and highway travel during holidays.
Where travelers say they'll go for Labor Day
Bright lights, big cities - 23 %
Town and country - 20 %
Beaches - 19 %
Mountains - 14 %
Lakes - 8 %
State or national parks - 5 %
Amusement parks - 3 %
Undecided - 6 %
Source: AAA Auto Club South
Labor Day holiday a time to hit the road
Bustling cities may draw more travelers than balmy beaches
September 3, 1999
Web posted at: 3:26 p.m. EDT (1926 GMT)
(CNN) - On the weekend intended to give United States workers a day of rest, an estimated 34.8 million Americans are expected to climb into their drivers' seats or board an airplane for a short Labor Day getaway.
Using a Travel Industry Association survey of 1,500 adults, the American Automobile Association (AAA) projects that most of those people -- some 29.2 million -- expect to travel by car. And if these estimates prove correct, cities will be more popular destinations than beaches, mountains or lakes.
AAA projections show that the number of Americans traveling over the 1999 Labor Day weekend should approach the record set in 1997, 34.9 million travelers.
Fueling the car will cost an average of 18 cents more per gallon than it did last year -- the AAA Fuel Gauge Report shows an average price of $1.255 for a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline.
The AAA estimates that close to a quarter of the traveling public will head for urban areas, outdistancing such other traditionally popular getaways as rural and beach excursions.
The deadliest driving hours
While Labor Day traffic is almost certain to be heavy, experts at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration tell CNN there are several strategies for improved safety on the road.
"Try to avoid the late night and early morning hours. That's when most fatal crashes occur."
-- Ricardo Martinez, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
Of key importance, they say, is choosing your time of day or night for travel. While driving at peak times in bumper-to-bumper traffic may be nerve-wracking, statistics indicate that off-hours can be more dangerous.
"Try to avoid the late night and early morning hours," says the administrations' Ricardo Martinez. "That's when most fatal crashes occur."
Martinez also advises drivers to:
follow the rules of the road,
get plenty of rest,
stop every few hours, and
be sure anyone who's been drinking alcohol doesn't get behind the wheel.
More than half last year's 464 fatal accidents over the 72-hour Labor Day weekend involved alcohol, Martinez says. That works out to about one death every nine minutes.
If you're planning to travel 150 miles (241 kilometers) from home, statistics indicate that driving may be riskier than driving.
"Flying is absolutely safer than driving," Martinez says. "We've got millions of crashes every year in cars. We've got very few crashes in aviation." Martinez points out that there were two times as many people killed in 1998 Labor Day road wrecks as were killed in the 1996 crash of TWA 800.
The AAA says Labor Day travel by air, bus or rail is expected to increase by some 6 percent this year over last year -- meaning as many as 5.6 million Americans should be leaving the car at home and using commercial and public transportation.
Correspondent Kalin Thomas-Samuel contributed to this report.