A Cautious Holiday Weekend

The Memorial Day weekend got off to a poor start in Maryland, where more than 100 cars were involved in fog-related accidents along a 20-mile stretch of Interstate 68. At least two people died and 60 were injured.

The massive pileup might be interpreted as a cautionary note for Americans, shell-shocked by terror attacks, the Iraq war, SARS and the recent raising of the national terror alert system.

Despite all that, a busy holiday travel weekend is expected, with Americans apparently ready to hit the road despite all the reasons to stay home. The American Automobile Association looks for sizeable numbers to be on the road for what is traditionally the kickoff of the summer driving season.

"I think the good news about travel is that this year's numbers for Memorial Day are about equal with a year ago," said Jerry Cheske of the AAA.

Cheske told CBS News Correspondent Peter King there were a lot of reasons not to travel this year, "from the economy to the volatile stock market, to record gasoline prices earlier in the year, to SARS, and now a high [terror] alert."

Still, many of us will hit the road.

Most people say they'll travel by car this year, an Associated Press poll said, and plan to spend $1,500 or less on their getaways.

Four of five in the AP poll said problems with the economy and terrorism will have no effect on their vacation plans.

Triple A estimates some 35 million Americans will travel this weekend, but there have been some adjustments.

"In most cases, they're traveling close to home, taking vacations of shorter duration," for which Memorial Day Weekend is an excellent time, Cheske noted.

Cheske said the cost of a vacation has risen about 2 percent in the past year, but lower gas prices have helped offset the increase.

"Go back to March and gas prices hit a record $1.72 a gallon," he told King at AAA national headquarters near Orlando. "Right now, they're about $1.50."

That is welcome news for the 29 million or so Americans who will drive to their holiday destinations, and even with the country on high alert for terrorist attacks, Cheske said four million flyers this weekend may not have as tough a time as expected.

"The people who are traveling by air really aren't affected all that much by the heightened security," he said. "They can generally get through fairly easily, except maybe a few peak periods."

Where are we all going? Cheske said Las Vegas, Myrtle Beach, S.C., and the national parks will be packed, but Orlando is still king of the hill.


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