2015 to set record for most Independence Day travelers

CHARLOTTE, NC (WACH) - A record number of people could be traveling this upcoming holiday weekend.

AAA Carolinas projects a record 614,700 South Carolinians will travel 50 miles or more from home this Independence Day holiday, which will mark the highest number of travelers based on surveys since 2001.

Most will be driving to their destinations, with nearly 541,000 South Carolinians expected to hit the road.

"This holiday weekend South Carolinians will be celebrating our nation's freedom with family and friends," said David E. Parsons, President and CEO of AAA Carolinas. "With students home from school, Independence Day is typically the busiest summer travel holiday. It's the perfect time for a family vacation."

Rising income, driven by a strong employment market is fueling the Independence Day holiday travel. Despite recent seasonal increases, gas prices remain well below last year's levels, which has helped fuel disposable income for South Carolinians.

On average, motorists will be paying 95 cents less at the pump than they did a year ago with the current average gasoline price in South Carolina at $2.44. The highest average price is in Charleston at $2.52 and the lowest in Spartanburg at $2.36.

Traveling south, motorists will find gas prices averaging $2.66 in Georgia and $2.68 in Florida. Heading north, Virginia's average is $2.57 and going west Tennessee's average is at $2.53 with Kentucky highest priced neighbor with an average price of $2.70.

Top driving destinations this holiday are Orlando, New Bern, Williamsburg (VA), Branson (MO) and Fort Bragg, according to AAA Vacations, the largest leisure travel agency in the Carolinas, which tracks personalized drive trip routes.

There were 10 traffic deaths in South Carolina during the Independence Day holiday last year - the highest in five years. In three of those fatalities, alcohol was involved. "July 4th has proven to be one of the deadliest holidays," said Parsons. "This holiday weekend is the perfect time to stress the importance of not drinking and driving, avoiding speeding and eliminating distractions behind the wheel, such as texting. Life has no redial, stay off the phone."

South Carolina's Highway Patrol will have more check points and stepped-up patrols during the holiday weekend as part of its "Target Zero" campaign. The program targets speeders, motorists who text while driving and those who drink and drive.

The South Carolina Department of Transportation began prohibiting lane closures on interstate highways and high volume multi-lane primary routes last Friday and that will continue through 10 p.m. Sunday, July 12. While most South Carolinians will be driving to their destinations, an estimated 54,300 will travel by air, an increase of 1.5 percent from last year. Approximately 75,000 will use other modes of travel, including buses, trains and cruises - an increase of 0.5 percent from 2014.

All travelers will find average hotel rates slightly higher this Independence Day holiday compared to last year's. The average nightly stay in a Two Diamond hotel is six percent higher this year at $145, while Three Diamond hotels will cost nine percent more, averaging $195. Average airfares for the top 40 domestic flight routes are six percent higher this Independence Day, climbing to $227.

The Independence Day holiday travel period is defined as Wednesday, July 1 through Sunday, July 5 as part of the survey data taken from AAA's Leisure Travel Index, AAA/HIS Global Insight holiday travel forecast and AAA Carolinas data. Records date back to 2001.

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