July Fourth Holiday Travel Down Despite Declining Gasoline Prices
Gasoline prices in North Carolina have been decreasing daily for nearly two weeks, but holiday road travel for July Fourth is still expected to be nearly 3 percent lower than last year, according to AAA Carolinas.
More than one million North Carolinians will travel 50 miles or more from home this weekend. Gas prices have been dropping since June 20 and are down more than 5 cents from their high of $2.66, after 51 straight days of increases.
However, economic woes, unemployment and uncertainty about the future have contributed to a drop in expected motorists this July Fourth holiday from 971,000 to 945,000, a drop of 2.7 percent.
Air travel is expected to increase 5.4 percent with 59,000 passengers taking to the skies, compared with 56,000 in 2008.
It is the second straight year that July Fourth holiday travel overall has declined. The average price of gasoline last June 30 was $3.99. Gas prices across the state average $2.61 for a gallon of regular unleaded, down from $2.66 about 10 days ago when they began to drop. Durham has the highest reported average price of gasoline at $2.66 and High Point the lowest at $2.53.
The most popular destinations for motorists, based on hotel bookings with AAA Vacations, are Myrtle Beach, Washington D.C., Asheville, Charleston and Atlanta.
"Economic uncertainty, combined with the recent 66-cent increase in gasoline prices over 51 days and the July Fourth holiday falling on a Saturday have all helped weaken motorist travel," said David E. Parsons, president and CEO of AAA Carolinas. "Airfares are lower this year and pent-up demand for quick, long distance travel will boost airline travel."
AAA Carolinas reports the average price for a roundtrip flight leaving from North Carolina gateways this weekend is $302. The least expensive roundtrip flight booked through AAA Vacations for the weekend was Charlotte to Las Vegas for $135.
"Almost all travelers will find discounts, special holiday offers and upgrades at hotels and attractions," Parsons said. "The travel industry is still hoping to spur summer travel despite high unemployment in the region."
North Carolina suffered 14 fatalities last July Fourth.
Alcohol has been a factor recently in more than 50 percent of the state's fatal crashes and the state Highway Patrol will be conducting "Booze It and Lose It" checkpoints state-wide this weekend.
Most construction projects along Interstates, N.C. and U.S. routes, will be suspended until 9 a.m., Tuesday, July 7, with four exceptions.
The four exceptions are:
n I-85 in Vance County between mile markers 206 and 214 is reduced to one lane in each direction using the northbound side so that crews can reconstruct the southbound lanes as part of a pavement rehabilitation project.
n One of three lanes will be closed on I-85 North and I-85 South at the interchange with N.C. 62 at Exit 113 near High Point due to construction of the U.S. 311 bypass.
No work will occur during the holiday, but the right lane in each direction will remain closed.
n One of two lanes will be closed on U.S. 421 south near N.C. 268 in Wilkes County from mile marker 286 to mile marker 287 where the embankment is being repaired from a previous slide.
No work will occur during the holiday, but the right lane will remain closed.
n One lane in each direction of U.S. 220 at the Randolph/Mont-gomery County line will be closed due to the construction of rest areas.
No work will occur during the holiday; however, the right lane in each direction will remain closed.
Motorists are also reminded to move over when passing stopped emergency vehicles or if involved in a minor accident.
Under the "Move Over" law, motorists are required to change lanes or slow down when passing stopped law enforcement, emergency vehicles, wreckers and NCDOT's Incident Management Assistance Patrol Vehicles with flashing lights.
Similarly, the "Fender Bender" law requires motorists to clear the roadway of noninjury accidents to help keep traffic moving and reduce the likelihood of secondary crashes.
Motorists seeking the cheapest local gas prices can go to www.aaa.com/fuelfinder. Prices are listed for a 3-, 5- or 10-mile radius of the Zip Code entered.
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