AAA maps best route to Myrtle Beach from Charlotte

dbryant@thesunnews.comApril 16, 2011 

Ever drive to Charlotte, N.C., and wonder if you were taking the quickest route?

Well, forget what the GPS says, Charlotte-based AAA Carolinas put testers to the road Friday to settle the age-old question of what's the best way to get from the Queen City to Myrtle Beach - which, of course, Charlotte-bound Grand Stranders could flip for their use. The trip also pitted speeders vs. those who obey the speed limits and tested gas mileage.

And the winner is: U.S. 74 to U.S. 52 near Wadesboro, to S.C. 9 to S.C. 38 to U.S. 501 to S.C. 22 and U.S. 17 to the Marina Inn at Grande Dunes. Winning time: three hours, 18 minutes and 54 seconds for the one driving over the speed limit, with the non-speeder arriving 24 minutes later.

"It took me three hours and 18 minutes from Charlotte. Are you kidding me? That's nothing. I spend that much time in rush hour," joked Jason Gaskins, a Charlotte construction company owner whom AAA recruited to drive that route as he normally drives, which this time meant about 7 to 8 miles over the speed limit. "It was easy."

That route was faster than the two others:

Interstate 485 to N.C. 218 to U.S. 74 through Rockingham to N.C. 38 to U.S. 501 near Latta to S.C. 22 then U.S. 17. This way took three hours, 36 minutes for the driver going the speed limit and three hours, 31 minutes for the speeder. AAA deemed this route the most efficient because the driver obeying the speed limit arrived only 18 minutes after the driver who got here first while erasing the chance for a speeding ticket and reducing the chances of an accident.

U.S. 77 to S.C. 9 to S.C. 903 to S.C. 151 to U.S. 52. I-95 then S.C. 327, U.S. 76 to S.C. 576 then U.S. 501 to U.S. 17. You don't want to go this way if you are in a hurry. This was the longest route, by far, taking about 4 hours and 30 minutes.

AAA also tested a route between Durham, N.C., and here, which took about 4 hours, with the driver following the speed limit arriving 10 minutes after the one who wasn't.

The "Great Myrtle Beach Road Race" aimed to help North Carolinians chart their path to Myrtle Beach with the summer vacation season just around the corner. The test also showed that speeding didn't save that much time - two minutes, five minutes and 24 minutes on the three Charlotte routes - and gauged fuel efficiency.

The results showing speeders don't save that much time surprised Myrtle Beach City Councilman Wayne Gray, who greeted the drivers at the "finish line" at the Marina Inn at Grande Dunes. He said he usually thinks he's saving substantially more time.

"If you drive the speed limit you are talking about only a 10 to 15 minute difference," he said.

A few more tips: U.S. 74 through Monroe is extremely congested and can hurt travel time, S.C. 22 will help drivers avoid congestion on U.S. 501 (as locals already know) and that Florence can confuse drivers - one in Friday's test got lost there.

"It is extremely confusing going through Florence," said Tom Crosby of AAA Carolinas. "It's just very, very confusing."

After hearing the routes and times, Gray told Crosby, "Now all we need is an interstate."

Contact DAWN BRYANT at 626-0296.

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