Gas prices put crimp in Labor Day plans

By Ed Brock

Jeannette Everson of Stockbridge will be on the roads this Labor Day weekend despite the sudden increase in gas prices.

"I couldn't not go, my father-in-law passed," Everson said.

The fact that the average price of regular gas remained above $3 a gallon on Thursday only made the prospect of driving to Cordele, Georgia for a funeral even less appealing, Everson said.

On Wednesday prices soared to over $5 in parts of the county for premium gasoline and other parts of Georgia, leading Gov. Sonny Perdue to issue a degree warning gas station owners against price gouging.

"We will not tolerate the exploitation of Georgia consumers as we recover from the effects of Hurricane Katrina," said Governor Sonny Perdue. "Violators of this price gouging statute will be punished to the fullest extent possible."

Georgia's price gouging statute prevents retailers from selling goods or services at an unreasonable or egregious price. Georgia's price gouging statute does not prevent price increases that accurately reflect an increase in the cost of the goods or services to the retailer, an increase in the cost of transporting the goods or services into the area, or an increase due to the market forces of supply and demand.

Citizens have been told to call the Office of Consumer Affairs to report possible price gouging and by noon Thursday there had been about 400 reports made, according to the governor's office.

Prices did go down at some stations on Thursday. The Exxon gas station on Mt. Zion Boulevard in Morrow near the Mt. Zion Parkway intersection had been charging $4.99 a gallon for regular on Wednesday. By Thursday morning they were charging just under $4.

AAA Autoclub South had been expecting 34.5 million people nationwide to travel this weekend, 28.8 million of them by car, said AAA spokesman Randy Bly said. But the high gas prices and other side effects of Hurricane Katrina make it unlikely those figures.

"Although we still think there will be robust travel I don't think there will be record numbers," Bly said.

The Clayton County Police Department is also expecting some fairly heavy travel this weekend, which is also the last weekend for the statewide Summer HEAT traffic enforcement program, Capt. Tom Israel said.

"There will be no tolerance for traveling at high speeds and not being properly buckled in, especially for children," Israel said.

The Georgia State Patrol is predicting 19 deaths over the weekend, with 2,335 accidents resulting in 990 injuries. Last year there were 15 traffic-related deaths.

"We're going to do our part to hopefully not have any fatalities in Clayton County," Israel said.

Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport will not be as busy as in the past. Mario Diaz, the deputy general manager for the airport, said bookings for the holiday weekend are down by half from last year.