Traveling during 4th of July holiday

7/1/2013, 1:26 p.m.
Over 1.1 million (1,122,639) Virginians, the vast majority of which will be motorists (84%), will venture 50 miles or more ...

Over 1.1 million (1,122,639) Virginians, the vast majority of which will be motorists (84%), will venture 50 miles or more from their homes to celebrate Independence Day, according to AAA Mid-Atlantic’s holiday travel forecast. “With close to 970,000 motorists hitting the roadways for the holiday weekend, everyone will have lots of company whenever they travel. The busiest days, however, are expected to be July 3rd and 7th, thus avoiding those, if possible, may help,” said Martha Mitchell Meade, manager, Public and Government Affairs for AAA Mid-Atlantic (AAA).

The 2013 travel forecast is down minimally (1.4%) from 2012, predominantly due to a shorter holiday period. “While holiday travel numbers have been increasing slowly but steadily overall since 2008, the slight decline for this July 4th is due to the fact that holiday falls on a Thursday, making a five day trip the natural choice as opposed to the six day option from last year,” said Martha Mitchell Meade, Manager, Public and Government Affairs for AAA Mid-Atlantic. The Independence Day holiday travel period is defined as Wednesday, July 3 to Sunday, July 7.

The shorter holiday period, coupled with gas prices that are, as of today, 21 cents per gallon higher than they were last year ($3.39 versus $3.18 a gallon), have many Virginia motorists staying close to home. One third of those traveling will remain within 150 miles radius of their home town. Gas prices have, however, remained fairly stable recently. As of today, Virginia gas prices are $3.39 per gallon of self- serve regular, the exact same price they were for the Memorial Day holiday one month ago. They are, however, expected to rise in July as the busy summer driving season ramps up. Gas prices rose 17 cents per gallon in July 2011 and 16 cents per gallon in 2012. Prices nationwide, however, are still expected to be lower mid-summer than they were at their peak in February ($3.70) this year, according to AAA.

Whether drivers are operating a moped, motorcycle, car, truck or any other vehicle, motorists should focus on the task of driving and help keep themselves and other drivers on the road safe this Fourth of July holiday. The 2012 Fourth of July holiday period was from July 4 through July 8. During this time period there were:

· 1,393 crashes and 10 fatalities

· 144 or 10% of the crashes were alcohol-related and 3 or 30% of the fatalities were alcohol-related

· 286 or 21% of the crashes were speed-related and 6 or 60% of the fatalities were speed-related

· 599 or 43% of the crashes occurred between noon and 6 p.m., but 5 or 50% of the fatalities occurred between 3 a.m. and 9 a.m.

· 71 % of the fatalities were unbelted

· There was one pedestrian fatality and three motorcycle fatalities

Unfortunately, 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.

“Too many lives are lost or changed forever because of the careless decision by an individual to drive drunk,” says Lt. Colonel Robert B. Northern, Virginia State Police Deputy Superintendent. “By having extra troopers on our interstates and roadways we want to make certain drivers are paying attention. Motorists are advised to slow down and obey the speed limits, drive distraction free and drive defensively, not aggressively. If they don’t, they can be assured our troopers will vigilantly enforce the traffic laws to make sure they do.”

DMV's Virginia Highway Safety Office reminds Virginians to designate a sober driver before the Fourth of July celebration begins. To prevent a tragedy from occurring this Fourth of July holiday, do not drive after drinking any alcohol, period. Even one drink can adversely affect a driver's reaction time and his or her ability to operate a motor vehicle. With the added traffic during the summer months, be sure to designate a sober driver before heading to your cook-out or Independence Day celebration.