Planning a road trip over the Independence Day weekend? After reading this, you may want to just stay home. Experts say drivers will endure heavy traffic, high gas prices and high numbers of traffic fatalities on the nation's roadways throughout the July 4 weekend.
Motorists will pay the most expensive Independence Day gas prices in six years, primarily because Iraqi violence has increased global petroleum costs in recent weeks, according to AAA. The nation's largest motoring organization expects the national average for gas will range from $3.60 to $3.70 per gallon. Last year, the average was $3.48 over the July 4th weekend.
"It is frustrating that events overseas will make it more expensive to celebrate Fourth of July here at home," said Avery Ash, a spokesperson for AAA, which projects that 34.8 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more over the weekend via automobiles despite the recent rise in prices. That's a 1.9-percent increase from last year's Fourth of July holiday, and a 14-percent spike over Memorial Day.
While the gas prices over the holiday are expected to be the highest since 2008, analysts with the U.S. Energy Information Administration note fuel prices in 2014 stayed below the spring peaks reached over the past three years. They do not believe that gas prices will have a significant impact on the overall number of travelers, but think people may trim their expenses on dining, shopping or other trip activities.
Lots of motorists combined with lots of barbecuing and celebrating also mean a higher number of drunk drivers. Historically, a higher proportion of crash deaths on July 4 have involved alcohol than compared to typical summer days, said Russ Rader, a spokesperson with the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
Alcohol has played a role in making Independence Day the single deadliest day on American roads in recent years. On the five July 4ths between 2008 and 2012, 637 Americans were killed on US roads, according to data from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System. That's an average of 127.4 people killed every year on the holiday.
The second-deadliest day on US roads has been New Year's Day, with 612 fatalities during the same five-year timespan.