ATLANTA, GA — A record-breaking number of people — nearly 47 million in all — will be taking to the highways and skyways in the United States this Fourth of July holiday.
That’s according to AAA. The auto club says 46.9 million Americans will travel more than 50 miles for Independence Day this year, more than a 5 percent increase over last year and the most since AAA started tracking holiday travel 18 years ago.
"This Fourth of July holiday will be one for the record books, as more Americans take to the nation’s roads, skies, rails and waterways than ever before," said AAA spokeswoman Ragina Cooper Averella. "Confident consumers with additional disposable income will look to spend on travel this holiday, building on an already busy summer travel season."
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The vast majority of those travelers, 39.7 million, will be driving, marking a 5.1-percent increase over 2017.
If you plan to join them in metro Atlanta, AAA has some advice: try to avoid doing it the afternoon of July 3. Atlanta’s worst traffic will be that Tuesday, AAA says, from 4-6 p.m. During that time, traffic will be 1.6 times worse than usual.
And, let’s be honest — traffic in metro Atlanta from 4-6 p.m. is pretty awful on the best of days.
"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," said Scott Sedlik, a vice president with INRIX, which conducted the travel study in collaboration with AAA. "Our advice to drivers is to avoid peak commuting hours altogether or consider alternative routes."
If there’s any good news for folks planning to hit the roads, it’s that the Fourth of July falls on a Wednesday this year. That gives folks flexibility about when they want to travel, with some planning trips for the weekend before the holiday and some planning for the weekend after.
AAA expects to come to the aid of more than 362,000 motorists over the holiday. Dead batteries, lockouts and flat tires are expected to be the leading reasons AAA members will need help. The auto club recommends motorists take their car or truck to a trusted repair facility to perform any needed maintenance before heading out. Oil changes, fluid level checks, battery tests and tire inspections go a long way toward reducing the chances of a breakdown, AAA says
The Independence Day holiday period is officially defined as Tuesday, July 3 to Sunday, July 8.
In addition to drivers, AAA says a record 3.8 million people will travel by air for July 4th, while another 3.5 million will travel by trains, buses and cruise ships.
Holiday drivers will face tough news at the gas pump this year. The price of a gallon of gas is 57 cents higher than it was this time last year, according to AAA. The current average (as of June 12) of $2.92 is actually down slightly from a high of $2.97 set this year over Memorial Day weekend.
Theme parks in Florida and California and, perhaps ironically on July 4, overseas destinations are the top destinations for travelers this year, according to AAA.
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