Nearly 154,000 South Dakotans Plan a Memorial Day Weekend Trip

SIOUX FALLS, SD – May 20, 2024 – AAA’s previously released national Memorial Day travel forecast showing the second highest number of travelers for the holiday – 43.8 million – and a record 38.4 million people driving to their destination – are reflected in South Dakota traveler projections.

Nearly 154,000 South Dakotans will travel 50 or more miles from home this Memorial Day weekend travel period (Thursday through Monday). While travel by air and other modes of transportation will be up this year compared to Memorial Day 2023, the large majority – about 87% or 132,000 – will take to the highways.

Road Trip Costs

Whereas most people drive for their family vacations and holiday trips, there are still expenses to plan for.

  • Gas – The average gas price in South Dakota is about $3.30/gallon, which has been trending about 30 cents less than the national average and placing the Mt. Rushmore State around the 14th lowest gas prices in the nation. After a rise in prices earlier this spring, prices have fallen and stayed fairly stable in recent weeks, putting South Dakota’s average price 10-15 cents lower than a year ago.

Even if there is some relief at the pumps of late, there are always things drivers can do to increase gas mileage and save money at the pumps.

AAA provides these tips for saving money on gas:

o    Get your vehicle checked out. Perform regular car maintenance at the intervals recommended by the vehicle manufacturer in the owner’s manual or as indicated by the in-car maintenance reminder system. A clean engine air filter can help improve gas mileage. Find a AAA Approved Auto Repair Facility here.

o    Keep tires properly inflated. Under-inflated tires can decrease your gas mileage by approximately 3%. Not to mention, properly inflated tires are safer and last longer. Check pressure in all four tires every two weeks with an accurate, hand-held air pressure gauge.

o    Know your octane. Do not purchase mid-grade or premium gas unless your owner’s manual specifically recommends it. According to AAA research, Americans waste more than $2.1 billion annually on premium gas in vehicles designed to run on regular fuel. AAA found no benefit to using premium gas instead of regular-grade fuel. At the time of the study, 75% of U.S. drivers owned a vehicle that required only regular gasoline.

o    Observe the speed limit. Gas mileage decreases rapidly at speeds above 60 mph. Each 5 mph you drive over 60 mph is like paying an additional $0.15 per gallon of gas. Using cruise control on the highway helps you maintain a constant speed and, in most cases, will save gas.

o    Drive sensibly. Aggressive driving (speeding, rapid acceleration and braking) wastes gas. It can lower your gas mileage by 33% at highway speeds and by 5% around town.

o    Minimize drag.  Drag reduces fuel efficiency. Driving with the windows open, using roof- or rear-mounted racks and carrying heavy loads increase vehicle drag. A loaded roof rack can decrease your fuel economy by 5%. An extra 100 pounds in the trunk reduces a typical car’s fuel economy by 1-2%.

  • Hotels – According to AAA travel booking data for Memorial Day weekend 2024, domestic hotels are 5% cheaper compared to last year.
  • Food — The Consumer Price Index for Food Away from Home increased 4.1% between April 2023 and April 2024, and according to the National Restaurant Association, limited service restaurant prices rose 4.8% and full-service restaurant prices increased 3.4% during the same period. One way to save money is to pack a cooler with food and bring snacks and drinks along during the road trip, rather than purchasing more expensive convenience store items or fast food.

Safety Focus While on the Road

With more traffic on the roads for the holiday weekend, AAA South Dakota reminds drivers to take the following safety precautions during their Memorial Day road trip:

  • Drive distraction-free. Do not text or engage in distracting activities while driving, including interacting with a cell phone, or changing a music playlist or navigation. Ask a passenger to handle those duties, if possible.
  • Stick to the speed limit. Posted speed limits are based on safe driving in optimal conditions. Slow down if weather conditions or traffic congestion warrant it.
  • Buckle up. Seat belts are the single most effective means of reducing the risk of death in a crash and have saved nearly 300,000 lives since 1975 in the United States alone.
  • Comply with the ‘Move Over’ Law. Observe the Move Over law when or emergency vehicles or drivers dealing with a disabled vehicle are on the side of the road. Change lanes or slow down to give sufficient clearance. All 50 states have some level of Move Over law.
  • Watch for Orange Cones. It is prime road construction season. Even if workers may not be present during the holiday weekend, always obey signage directing lane closures and reduced speeds. The majority of people injured and killed in construction zone crashes are motorists, not road workers.
  • Be Weather-Aware. Severe weather can happen anytime, anywhere this time of year. Have a weather app on your phone to receive weather warnings, forecasts and live radar so you can avoid severe storms while driving.
  • Pull out of the traffic lanes if your car breaks down. If faced with a vehicle emergency, safely steer your car off the roadway. Turn on the emergency flashers to alert other drivers and exit the vehicle on the side facing away from traffic if possible. Once everyone is in a safe location, request assistance from an emergency road service provider. Have your AAA membership number and toll-free number or mobile app handy to request assistance.