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AAA: Record Numbers Hit The Road For July 4

John-Mark Kuznietsov

  Nearly 43 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more for their Independence Day revelry, according to AAA.

If the auto club’s projection pans out, the period between Thursday, June 30 and Monday, July 4 will see 500,000 more travelers than last year. Eighty-four percent will travel by automobile, and will continue to benefit from continued low gas prices, the lowest in 11 years, and other positive economic factors.

“It’s just more affordable to travel right now, because of the low fuel prices,” said Jenkins. “People are seeing more economic growth; personal incomes are growing, consumer spending is also supposed to rise. So that’s really helping to spur people to take a trip this Independence Day.”

Gas prices both nationwide and across Florida average $2.26 per gallon. That’s 44 cents less than a year ago. Pensacola’s average is 42 cents cheaper this year, at $2.30. Jenkins says low gas prices tend to affect both the wallet and the psyche.

“When you consider a couple of years ago when prices were around $4.00 a gallon, people really cringed at the idea of going to the gas station to fill up and take a long trip,” said Jenkins. “Now prices are less than $2.50, and the focus becomes more about where you’ll go and what you’ll do when you get there.”

Peak travel times will be Friday and Monday afternoons. AAA recommends to begin your trip in the morning, to avoid traffic congestion and allow extra time to avoid feeling rushed. That, in turn, lessens the chances of an accident. And make sure your vehicle is travel-ready.

“AAA estimates it will rescue about 370,000 stranded motorists for lockouts, dead batteries, flat tires,” Jenkins said. “And in fact, your car may have a problem under the hood that you might not be aware of.”

Another travel tip is to get plenty of sleep before a road trip; take a break about every two hours, and once underway, designate passengers to handle text messages, navigation, and any other issue not related to driving.

Also out on the road in force will law enforcement, on the lookout for dangerous drivers. Lt. Steve Preston at the Florida Highway Patrol says part of their extra presence will be troopers who are trading desks for cruisers during the holiday period.

“We’ll be with our standard operating procedures as far as our shifts are concerned,” said Preston. “But we are going to be suspending office operations through the holiday period. Everyone that’s assigned administrative duties will be will be on the road patrolling.”

Preston says for information about road conditions and other potential developments, help is just a phone call away at *FHP.

Meanwhile, more than three million Americans will take to the skies for their July 4 getaway, with average air fares about nine percent less compared to last year. Jenkins says prepare for long lines at the airport. Britain’s vote to leave the European Union last week could provide an indirect benefit to Americans going there.

“If you’re going over to Great Britain, the conversion rate of the U.S. dollar to the pound is very favorable for Americans,” said Jenkins. “That means that American travelers can get more for their money.”

Closer to home, Floridians will also be spending more this year on holiday-themed events, food and merchandise – $71 per household, according to the National Retail Federation. Sixty-four percent of Americans will hold a cookout, picnic or barbecue.     

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