SALT LAKE CITY — Drivers planning a road trip out of Salt Lake or Utah counties for Labor Day weekend are being warned to plan for up to an hour delay and to "pack your patience."
Southbound I-15 traffic between Salt Lake and Utah counties is expected to be so heavy Friday afternoon and evening that drivers should expect 30-60 minutes of delay to their trip, the Utah Department of Transportation warned in a news release Thursday.
Heavy traffic is expected between 2 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. Friday, with the heaviest delays around 5 p.m., the release stated.
UDOT spokesman John Gleason added that delays could be even longer if there are accidents on the highway.
"It really doesn't take much to stall traffic on these big holiday weekends," he said. "If you get a crash or two, it takes the crews a little while longer to respond because of the traffic and a little bit longer to clear. It can really grind traffic to a halt."
Gleason said I-15 northbound between Salt Lake and Davis counties may also experience similar delays, and people returning Monday to the Salt Lake area may cause heavy traffic northbound on I-15 through Utah county.
"If you can avoid those peak travel times," he said, "you may save yourself some headache."
For those who are unable to avoid the heavy traffic this weekend, Gleason advised drivers to either leave early or add an extra hour to their planned travel time.
"Give yourself enough time to not only enjoy the vacation, but also to enjoy the ride and make sure you're being safe," he said.
The Department of Public Safety also released a statement Thursday encouraging travelers to drive carefully on the holiday weekend. Labor Day marks the end of "Utah's 100 Deadliest Days," the time period each year that often has the most fatal crashes, it stated.
This year there have been 94 fatalities statewide from May 25 to Aug. 27, according the department. There were 79 during the same time period last year.
Heading into the busy travel weekend, the department has made plans to focus on keeping the roads safe. Troopers will work more than 340 extra shifts to patrol roads throughout the state, and, at night, will focus on DUI enforcement.
"If your plans for the weekend include drinking, make sure they also include a plan for a safe ride home," the department urged.
AAA is also making an effort to prevent drunken driving on Labor Day, said Michael Blasky, the spokesman for AAA Utah.
The company will offer a free service called Tipsy Tow. Anyone in Utah, AAA member or not, can call 1-800-AAA-HELP (1-800-222-4357), and the service will give them a free ride home and free towing up to 10 miles. The service is available from 6 p.m. Monday until 6 a.m. Tuesday.
In addition to being safe, Gleason also urged drivers to be patient with each other.
"Nobody wants to be stuck in gridlock, nobody wants to be stuck in congestion," he said. "We're all in it together. … Try to be the type of driver that you hope other people will be."
Those who are headed out this weekend can also expect to see higher gas prices than last year. Average prices across Utah rose from $2.61 a year ago to $3.19 now, while the average across the United States increased from $2.40 a year ago to $2.84 now, according to AAA.
However, Blasky said prices have decreased since Memorial Day and are not expected to rise between now and Labor Day due to a decrease in demand in late July and early August.
Additional details and comparisons can be found online at gasprices.aaa.com.