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Police will step up patrols over long weekend

With near-record numbers of motorists expected to hit the highways this weekend, state and local police are urging drivers to be safe — and letting them know police patrols will be stepped up in case they aren't.

“AAA projects more than 38 million Americans will travel this Memorial Day weekend,” according to a statement released by Oregon State Police. “That’s the second-highest Memorial Day travel volume on record and the most since 2005.”

In addition to increased Oregon State Police patrols this weekend, the Jackson County Sheriff's Office will conduct DUII saturation patrols through Memorial Day. Emphasis will be on rural roads in Jackson County, especially roads leading to campgrounds and lakes, according to a statement released by JCSO.

Memorial Day kicks off the summer driving season and car travel is expected to account for 89 percent of all travel nationally, with nearly 34 million travelers driving to their destinations, an increase of 2.1 percent over 2015, according to AAA Oregon/Idaho.

“The lowest gas prices in more than a decade are fueling the rise in Memorial Day travelers, spurring about 700,000 more people to travel compared to last year,” Marie Dodds, public affairs director for AAA Oregon/Idaho, said in a release.

“The great American road trip is officially back,” said Dodds.

Police are cautioning drivers to be cautious and prepared for increased traffic this weekend.

“Coming out of winter and spring, more people are on the road, which results in more traffic accidents,” said Jackson County Sheriff's Sgt. Dace Cochran.

Traffic is typically the heaviest Friday evening and all day Monday, the prime travel times for the weekend, according to OSP Capt. Bill Fugate.

“People are out enjoying themselves and drinking,” said Fugate. “People need to drive sober, take their time and not be distracted.”

Police are advising travelers to buckle up, don’t drink and drive, perform tire maintenance, properly secure children in an appropriate fitting car seat and not leave children or animals unattended in hot cars.

Temperatures in the Rogue Valley are expected to be near 80 Saturday and in the high 80s by Monday. National Weather Service forecasts call for a high temperature of 95 on Tuesday.

It is recommended to allow extra time for traveling because of the number of vehicles on the road. Travelers can check tripcheck.com to check on travel conditions or closures within the state, according to Fugate.

“Anticipate heavy traffic and don’t be rushed,” said Fugate.

Caitlin Fowlkes is a reporting intern. Reach her at cfowlkes@dailytidings.com.