AAA: More than 1 million expected on roads over holiday
More than a million North Carolinians are expected to hit the road for the Independence Day holiday, the highest number in more than 13 years, with holiday gas prices also the highest since 2008.
Traffic deaths soared last year over the holiday weekend, with 18 deaths, the highest in eight years in North Carolina, partially aided by an extra day of driving. In seven of those deaths, alcohol was involved.
“July 4th has proven to be one of the deadliest days of the year for traffic deaths,” said David E. Parsons, president and CEO of AAA Carolinas. “The holiday spirit and corresponding celebrations seem to outweigh caution, courtesy and common sense by drivers this time of year. And we will have more motorists on the road this year.”
The number of person trips, traveling more than 50 miles from home, is expected to be 1,175,000 North Carolinians this holiday, with 1,015,000 choosing to drive — up from 988,000 last year — the highest ever based on surveys since 2001.
Airplane trips are estimated at 90,400 and other types of travel, bus, rail, watercraft, estimated at 70,000.
North Carolina’s gas prices are 16 cents higher than last year, due in part to the unrest in Iraq, which is propping up prices at a time when they would typically be declining with refineries ramping up supply for summer driving.
North Carolina’s current average gasoline price is $3.565. The highest price is in Durham at $3.641 and the cheapest is in Greensboro at $3.505.
Special travel tip: Check windshield wipers to combat sudden thunderstorms. Wipers often freeze and harden during winter, reducing their effectiveness. Intermittent thunderstorms are predicted.
Top drive destinations are Charlotte, Myrtle Beach, Wilmington, Charleston, Nashville (Tenn.), Greenville (S.C.), Orlando, Gatlinburg, Washington D.C. and Greensboro, according to AAA Carolinas.
Traveling south, motorists will find the cheapest gas in the nation, averaging $3.389, in South Carolina; $3.589 in Georgia, and $3.617 in Florida. Going north, Virginia’s average is $3.481 and traveling west, Tennessee’s average price is $3.462 with Kentucky the highest priced neighbor with an average price of $3.726.
With Friday and Saturday fireworks scheduled throughout the state, and no work the next day, law enforcement and traffic experts are worried about an increase in drunken drivers.
“Don’t turn a good time into a tragedy,” said Parsons. “Don’t drink and drive and be especially vigilant behind-the-wheel. You may be sober. The other driver may not be.”
The North Carolina State Highway Patrol began its “Booze It & Lose It: Operation Firecracker” campaign targeting drunk drivers last Friday and will continue it through Sunday, July 6.
North Carolina will suspend most construction projects along interstates, secondary and primary routes from 4 p.m. Thursday, July 3, until 9 a.m. Monday, July 7.
I-40 and I-440 west in Wake County and I-40 in Haywood County will have some lane restrictions. For updated information on other primary and secondary roads — including exceptions to this policy — visit www.ncdot.gov/travel or call 511 within the state.
Airfares are 5 percent lower on average than last year and air travel is expected to increase about 2.5 percent, accounting for 90,400 travelers. Other modes of transportation (bus, rail, watercraft) are flat this year at 70,000 travelers.
All travelers will find average hotel rates 15 percent higher than last year at AAA Two Diamond hotels and 9 percent more at AAA Three Diamond hotels. These are the most popular hotels for holiday travel. Car rental fees remain flat.
The five-day Independence Day holiday travel period is defined as Wednesday, July 2, through Sunday, July 6 as part of the survey data taken from AAA’s Leisure Travel Index, AAA/HIS Global Insight holiday travel forecast and AAA Carolinas data. Records go back to 2001.