AAA estimates a record 1.16 million in the state will travel — the majority by vehicle — for the long weekend, which they begin counting on Wednesday, July 2.
Not only is that a record-breaking number, but it also represents the first increase for July 4 since 2011, says AAA. Meanwhile, gas prices are the highest in six years, the agency said.
“Overall holiday travel has been steadily, yet slowly, inching up since 2008, however, this July 4 the numbers are not only a post-recession high, but are the highest since AAA began forecasting with its current model 13 years ago,” Martha Mitchell Meade, Manager, Public and Government Affairs for AAA Mid-Atlantic, said in a release. “This record high number of travelers, despite the likelihood of the highest July 4 gas prices in six years, tells us that travelers are looking forward to better economic times.”
Meade said AAA expects the majority of drivers in Virginia will pay the highest gas prices for Independence Day since 2008.
Virginia’s average price of gas today is $3.49, is 16 cents per gallon more expensive than the average on July 4, 2013, when it was $3.33 per gallon. In recent years, gas prices have declined leading up to Independence Day, but this has not occurred in 2014 due to the high cost of crude oil resulting from violence in Iraq, says AAA.
The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) is lifting lane closures for the holiday weekend effective noon Thursday, July 3 through noon on Monday, July 7 for easier travel. Additionally, VDOT has been extending the popular Reach the Beach campaign through the Richmond District to include dual travel times for drivers along the I-95, I-295 and I-64 corridors. The new messages will display approximate travel times to reach the Williamsburg area and Virginia Beach.
The Fourth of July holiday weekend is also considered one of the deadliest holidays during the year because of crashes involving intoxicated drivers. To ensure safety on the road, motorists can expect to see increased patrols and enforcement by the Virginia State Police as part of the annual, nationwide Operation Combined Accident Reduction Effort (C.A.R.E.). The traffic-safety campaign requires 75 percent of all state troopers to be on patrol throughout the extended Fourth of July holiday weekend.
Last July 4 weekend, seven people in Virginia died traffic crashes. Virginia State Police also made 104 DUI arrests and cited 11,350 speeders. Troopers cited 1,053 safety belt violations and another 335 child safety belt violations.
To see traffic trouble spots in the state, visit Virginia 511.
To see the cheapest gas near you, visit Gas Buddy.
Photo: Beltway traffic/file photo