RALEIGH — Those planning road trips this Fourth of July will have plenty of company.
From today until Tuesday, about 1.25 million North Carolinians are expected to take to the roads, skies, rails and waterways this Independence Day, according to AAA.
“Higher confidence has led to more consumer spending, and many Carolinians are choosing to allocate their extra money on travel this Independence Day weekend,” said Dave Parsons, President and CEO of AAA Carolinas. “The historic number of travelers adds to what is already shaping up to be a busy summer travel season.”
Drivers in the Carolinas are not alone. In all, a record-breaking 44.2 million Americans are likely to travel this year, the motor club predicts. AAA said July 4 is the most-traveled summer holiday, besting Memorial Day and Labor Day, because it falls in the middle of the summer, when school is out.
Also expected to be out in force will be law enforcement. The annual “Booze It & Lose It: Operation Firecracker” campaign runs today through July 9. Law enforcement officers are setting up additional sobriety checkpoints in every county in the state to target impaired drivers and prevent highway fatalities.
Scotland County Sheriff Ralph Kersey said because the July 4 holiday has one of the highest traffic flows of the year, drivers need to take extra care.
“I would remind all motorists to practice the Golden Rule when driving. Be courteous and tolerant of other drivers. Please don’t get angry with bad drivers or reckless ones – just get out of their way,” Kersey said. “Let’s make this summer a safe one on the roads in Scotland County.”
Of those 1.25 million North Carolina travelers, the vast majority — 1.1 million — are expected to drive, about 94,000 will fly and about 37,000 will take other modes of transportation, AAA says.
For those driving, gasoline prices are slightly below last year’s levels. In North Carolina, the average price for a gallon of gas on June 29 was $2.09. That’s down from $2.21 a month ago and $2.18 this time last year.
The national average on Wednesday was $2.24, down from last year’s $2.30.
Over the Fourth of July weekend, the N.C. Department of Transportation will stop most road construction on major routes statewide to facilitate safe holiday travel. The DOT will suspend construction projects along interstate, N.C. and U.S. routes from 6 a.m. Friday until midnight Wednesday.
Real-time travel information, including detours, is available at www.DriveNC.gov, by calling 511, or by following NCDOT on Twitter.
Here are some tips for safely navigating the highways during the holiday:
— Leave early to get a head start on your drive. Travel at non-peak hours when possible;
— Stay alert. Even if work is suspended, you may encounter narrowed lanes and traffic shifts in work zones;
— Be patient and obey the posted speed limit;
— Use alternate routes, when possible, to avoid traffic congestion;
— Don’t drive drowsy. Travel at times when you are normally awake, and take frequent breaks; and
— Avoid distracted driving. When drivers stop focusing on the road ahead, they react more slowly to traffic conditions and are more likely to be involved in an accident.