Be prepared for heavy traffic on July 4

Published 9:53 am Tuesday, June 26, 2018

This Independence Day holiday, a record-breaking 1,312,500 North Carolinians, and more than 661,500 South Carolinians will travel 50 miles or more away from home — an increase of more than 5 percent from last year — taking to the nation’s roads, skies, rails and waterways to honor the red, white and blue.

For those planning a road trip, AAA Carolinas predicts travel times in most places will take twice as long as the normal trip, with Tuesday being the busiest day.

“Despite high gas prices, Carolinians appear to be traveling in record numbers to celebrate Independence Day,” said Tiffany Wright, AAA Carolinas spokesperson. “Confident consumers with additional disposable income will look to spend on travel this holiday, adding to an already busy summer travel season.”

In addition to strong economic variables, the expected increase in travelers this year is helped by Independence Day falling on a Wednesday, giving travelers more flexibility to schedule a trip the weekend before or after the holiday. The Independence Day holiday period is defined as Tuesday, July 3 to Sunday, July 8.

State numbers: Independence Day travel forecast

  • 1,765,680 Carolinians (1,156,100 North Carolinians and 609,580 South Carolinians) will drive to their destinations, an increase of 5.1 percent from last year.
  • 163,556 Carolinians (101,426 North Carolinians and 62,130 South Carolinians) are taking to the skies – increasing air travel by a record breaking 7.9 percent.
  • 75,118 Carolinians (39,146 North Carolinians and 35,972 South Carolinians) will look to other modes of transportation such as cruises, trains and buses.

Drivers beware: Terrible Tuesday

INRIX, in collaboration with AAA, predicts drivers will experience the worst congestion over the holiday week on Tuesday, July 3, in the late afternoon – as commuters leave work early and mix with holiday travelers.

“Although travel times are expected to nominally increase throughout the week, Tuesday afternoon will hands down be the worst time to be on the road. Our advice to drivers is to avoid peak commuting hours altogether or consider alternative routes.” says Scott Sedlik, of INRIX.

“As motorists experience delays and congested roads, it’s important for them to practice patience behind the wheel and avoid becoming frustrated while driving to prevent road rage,” added Wright. 

Gas prices stabilizing

Gas prices have slowly but steadily started to fall since the 2018 high of $2.80 (N.C.) and $2.65 (S.C.) set over Memorial Day weekend. Since then, the price has dropped and 11 cents and 13 cents, respectively.

It’s the highest prices Carolinians will face over the Independence day holiday since 2014. However, the higher prices are having little effect on travelers this Independence Day, with record number of travelers still planning to hit the road this year. 

Travel numbers are not expected to change for the Independence Day weekend, though gas prices likely will. For the most up-to-date gas prices throughout the Carolinas, visit  

Travelers paying more for car rentals and hotels

According to AAA’s Leisure Travel Index, travelers taking to the skies will pay an average $171 for a round-trip flight along the top 40 domestic routes. That is the lowest Independence Day airfare in five years, and 9 percent less than last year.

However, travelers can expect to pay more to rent a car and stay at mid-range hotels this Independence Day. At $66, the average daily cost of a car rental is a slight increase of 2 percent over last year.

Top Independence Day travel destinations for Carolinians

By vehicle:

  1. Florida/Orlando – Disney World & Universal Studios
  2. North Carolina
  3. Tennessee
  4. NYC
  5. Atlanta

By air:

  1. Alaska
  2. Bahamas
  3. France
  4. Italy
  5. Caribbean – Western (cruises)

Increase in traffic crashes

The week of Independence Day is a dangerous time to be on the roads. Over the holiday period in 2017, there were 4,130 crashes in North Carolina resulting in 19 fatalities – an increase from 2016’s 3,951 crashes and 18 fatalities.

AAA Carolinas advises motorists to be extra vigilant on the roads and expect delays as well as heavy traffic and more pedestrians. Put away all distractions behind the wheel. Disconnect and Drive. 

 AAA Carolinas expects to rescue more than 11,000 motorists this Independence Day weekend, with the primary reasons being lockouts, flat tires and battery-related issues.

AAA recommends motorists take their vehicle to a trusted repair facility to perform any needed maintenance before heading out to their destination. A list of AAA Approved Auto Repair Shops can be found here.

Motorists can find current gas prices along their route with the free AAA Mobile app for iPhone, iPad and Android. The app can also be used to map a route, find discounts, book a hotel and access AAA roadside assistance. Learn more at  .