AAA projecting July 4th travel records this year

fhwaA record-breaking 46.9 million Americans and nearly 1.3 million Virginians are projected to travel 50 miles or more away from home this July 4th holiday.

The record number of travelers is an increase of more than 5 percent both nationally and in Virginia compared with last year and the highest number since AAA started tracking 18 years ago. For the 1.1 million Virginians that will be taking a road trip, AAA and traffic safety partners from Virginia State Police, Chesterfield Fire and EMS and VDOT urge everyone to put safety first.

“The highways in Virginia will be busy with a record breaking number of travelers this year,” said Tammy Arnette, Senior Public Affairs Specialist for AAA.  “Confident consumers with additional disposable income will look to spend on travel this holiday, building on an already busy summer travel season.  With the majority of travelers taking a road trip, AAA is reminding everyone to put safety first and to move over or slow down for first responders or any traffic safety personnel with blue, red or amber flashing lights.”

In addition to strong economic variables, the expected increase in travelers this year is helped by Independence Day falling on a Wednesday, giving travelers more flexibility to schedule a trip the weekend before or after the holiday. The Independence Day holiday period is defined as Tuesday, July 3 to Sunday, July 8.

Virginia State Police – Focus and Drive Sober

As part of its continued efforts to increase safety on Virginia’s highways and reduce traffic fatalities, Virginia State Police will once again be participating in the Operation C.A.R.E. (Crash Awareness and Reduction Effort) safety initiative and conducting high visibility enforcement this Tuesday and Wednesday for the Independence Day holiday. Of the 843 total fatalities on Virginia’s roads last year, 208 involved distracted driving and 248 were alcohol related.

“Road trips, beach vacations and other summer activities go hand-in hand with this holiday, but we’re urging people to make sure these celebrations and safety do as well,” said Major Steven Chumley, Deputy Director of the Bureau of Field Operations with Virginia State Police. “Driving drunk or distracted is never a good idea. Whether you’re traveling this week or you’re just headed to a cook out around the corner, remember to drop the distractions and never get behind the wheel intoxicated. If we all focus on the road, everyone has a better chance of arriving at their destination safely.”

Fire Officials Call for Firework Safety – “Leave it to the Experts”

Each July 4th, thousands of people, most often children and teens, are injured while using consumer fireworks. Despite the dangers of fireworks, few people understand the associated risks – devastating burns, other injuries, fires, and even death. The Metro-Richmond Fire Departments urge people not to use consumer fireworks because they are too dangerous. Instead, go to a public show put on by experts.

  • Fireworks start an average of 18,500 fires per year, including 1,300 structure fires, 300 vehicle fires, and 16,900 outside and other fires.
  • These fires caused an average of three deaths, 40 civilian injuries, and an average of $43 million in direct property damage.
  • In 2015, U.S. hospital emergency rooms treated an estimated 11,900 people for fireworks related injuries; 51% of those injuries were to the extremities and 41% were to the head.
  • Children younger than 15 years of age accounted for one-quarter (26%) of the estimated 2015 injuries.

Virginia Department of Transportation – Lane Closures and Highway Work Zones

To make the holiday drive easier on travelers, the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) will suspend most highway work zones and lift lane closures on interstates and other major roads in Virginia from noon Tuesday, July 3 to noon Thursday, July 5.

While Interstate 64 widening is in progress between Henrico County and James City County, motorists planning a trip to Virginia Beach or the Outer Banks are encouraged to use Route 460 as an alternative to avoid delays.

According to VDOT’s online, interactive travel-trends map, moderate to heavy congestion is likely to occur between 2-8 p.m. on Tuesday and Thursday.

Real-time information about traffic, incidents and congestion on Virginia roads is available at 511virginia.org. Download the free mobile VDOT 511 app, or call 511 to access traffic cameras, weather and more.

Travelers Paying Less for Airfare, More for Car Rentals and Hotels

According to AAA’s Leisure Travel Index, travelers taking to the skies will pay an average $171 for a round-trip flight along the top 40 domestic routes. That is the lowest Independence Day airfare in five years, and 9 percent less than last year.

However, travelers can expect to pay more to rent a car and stay at mid-range hotels this Independence Day. At $66, the average daily cost of a car rental is a slight increase of 2 percent over last year. The average nightly rate at AAA Two Diamond hotels is $147, 11 percent more than last year, while AAA Three Diamond hotels will average $187, a 2 percent year-over-year increase.

Theme Parks and Europe are Major Draws this Independence Day

This Independence Day, travelers will flock to theme parks in Orlando and southern California, while many others are heading west. Alaska cruises departing from Seattle, Anchorage and Vancouver round out the top five U.S. travel destinations for the holiday. For those venturing overseas, Europe is a major draw, with Rome, London, Dublin and Paris all making the list of top international travel destinations for Independence Day.

Top Domestic Travel Destinations

  1. Orlando, Florida
  2. Anaheim, California
  3. Seattle, Washington
  4. Anchorage, Alaska
  5. Honolulu, Hawaii

Top International Travel Destinations

  1. Rome, Italy
  2. London, England
  3. Dublin, Ireland
  4. Vancouver, Canada
  5. Paris, France

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