AAA predicts record-breaking number of holiday travelers

French livery drivers block with their cars a traffic circle at Port Maillot, one of the entries to the city after a "Snail Operation" early morning from Orly airport into Paris, France, Friday, Dec. 18, 2015. French livery drivers are protesting a drop in their rates, striking out again, against what they say is unfair competition by Uber and other companies. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — AAA projects 1.2 million Virginians will travel to celebrate Independence Day this year.

The 2017 travel forecast is the highest since 2001, when 983 thousand Virginians holiday celebrations included traveling 50 miles or more from home.

The exact prediction, 1,231,821 is up 3.1 percent from last year.

“The strong forecast numbers are not surprising as Independence Day is typically the busiest summer travel holiday period and holiday gas prices are expected to be the lowest since 2004,” said Martha Meade, Public and Government Affairs Manager for AAA.

“Combined, strong employment, rising incomes and higher consumer confidence bode well for the travel industry, in particular this Independence Day weekend,” said Meade.  “More Virginians than ever on record will be taking to the roads to celebrate our nation’s freedom.  AAA advises travelers to practice safety first by buckling up, driving sober and distraction free.”

The Independence Day holiday travel period is defined as Friday, June 30 to Tuesday, July 4.

By the Numbers: Independence Day Travel Forecast

  • Overall, 1.2 (1,231,821) million Virginia travelers are expected to travel this Independence Day, a 3.1 percent increase over 2016.
  • One million (1,071,495) Virginians will drive to their destinations, an increase of 3.2 percent over last year.
  • More than 92 thousand (92,772) Virginians are taking to the skies this Independence Day, increasing air travel by 4.5 percent over last year.
  • 67 thousand (67,554) Virginia travelers will look to other modes of transportation, including cruises, trains and buses, an increase of 0.8 percent from 2016.

Gas prices cheaper than one year ago
As of Tuesday, June 27, 2017, Virginia gas prices are $2.03 per gallon on average, thirteen cents less than a month ago and ten cents less than a year ago.  As supply continues to outpace demand, gas prices are declining and Virginia drivers could very well see the return of gas price averages below $2 per gallon in the days or weeks ahead.  Currently 63% of gas stations in Virginia are selling gasoline for $2 per gallon or less while 21% of gas stations in the U.S. are selling gas for $2 or less.

Virginia State Police – Buckle-up, Focus and Drive Sober
With the forecasted record-breaking travel volume anticipated for the Independence Day weekend and the fact that fatal traffic crashes are on the rise in the Commonwealth for 2017, the Virginia State Police is urging all motorists to put traffic safety at the top of their list of holiday priorities. Traffic crashes and deaths are prevented when drivers and passengers simply follow the rules of the road – this includes never driving impaired, avoiding distractions while driving and always buckling up.

To ensure the Fourth of July holiday is as safe as possible, Virginia State Police will increase patrols during the long holiday weekend. During the 2016 July Fourth weekend, Virginia troopers arrested 106 drunk drivers and cited 9,487 speeders and 2,590 reckless drivers. They also cited 821 individuals for failing to wear a seat belt and 360 motorists for child safety seat violations during the four-day 2016 holiday statistical counting period. In 2016, eight people died in seven traffic crashes statewide.

Fire Officials Call for Firework Safety – “Leave it to the Experts”
On Independence Day in a typical year, far more U.S. fires are reported than on any other day, and fireworks account for two out of five of those fires, more than any other cause of fires. Thousands of people, most often children and teens, are injured while using consumer fireworks. Chesterfield Fire and EMS suggests parents teach their children to leave fireworks to the professionals and reminds residents that the county prohibits the sale, possession, or use of fireworks, even sparklers.

How dangerous are fireworks? The facts:

  • More fires are reported in the United States on the Fourth of July than on any other day, and fireworks account for more than half of those blazes, according to the National Fire Protection Association.
  • Fireworks cause an estimated 15,600 reported fires annually in the United States
  • Fireworks result in an estimated $21 million in direct property damage in America each year
  • U.S. hospital emergency rooms treat an estimated 10,500 people for fireworks related injuries each year
    • 51 percent of those injuries were to the extremities
    • 38 percent of those injuries were to the head
  • The risk of fireworks injury is highest for children ages 5-9, followed by children 15-19
  • U.S. hospital emergency rooms treat an estimated 8,700 people for fireworks related injuries annually.
  • Most fireworks injuries are burns. Almost one-fifth (18%) are contusions or lacerations.
  • Sparklers, fountains and novelties alone account for one-quarter (25%) of the emergency room fireworks injuries in 2012.
  • In 2011, fireworks caused an estimated 17,800 reported fires, including 1,200 total structure fires, 400 vehicle fires, and 16,300 outside and other fires. These fires resulted in an estimated eight reported civilian deaths, 40 civilian injuries and $32 million in direct property damage.

“With preparation and safe practices, Fourth of July celebrations and cookouts can be incident and damage-free” said Lieutenant Jason Elmore, Chesterfield Fire and EMS.

Barbecue Grilling Safety
According to the National Fire Protection Association, June and July are the peak months for summer grill fires, with nearly 9,000 fires caused by grills, hibachis and other barbecues each year, accounting for $37 million in property loss in the United States.

“Grilling season is a great time to enjoy friends, family, food and the outdoors, but accidents can happen,” added Elmore.  “Before you barbecue, take a few minutes to review grilling safety tips and to ensure your equipment is working properly.”

Safe Barbecuing Tips

  • Place your grill at least 10 feet away from walls and deck railings to prevent fires from igniting buildings. Keep your grill away from decorations, such as hanging plants and umbrellas.
  • Never grill indoors or in confined areas; charcoal grills produce carbon monoxide fumes that are fatal in unventilated areas.
  • Keep a fire extinguisher nearby, and know how to use it.
  • Never leave a grill burning unattended.
  • Grease can cause flare up fires. Keep your grill clean by removing grease and fat build-up from the grill and grill trays.
  • If the flame on your propane grill goes out, turn the grill and gas off. Wait at least 15 minutes before relighting, and always make sure your grill lid is open before igniting.
  • When transporting a propane tank in your vehicle, make sure to crack the windows in case of a potential tank leak.

“AAA wants everyone to safely celebrate the red, white and blue, without injuries or damage to their property,” added Meade. “It’s always a good idea to consult your insurance agent to be sure about what your homeowners or renters policy covers and does not cover in terms of liability with party gatherings and potential damage related to grilling or the use of fireworks.”

AAA to rescue more than 338,000 motorists this Independence Day
AAA expects to rescue more than 338,000 motorists this Independence Day weekend, with the primary reasons being lockouts, flat tires and battery-related issues. AAA recommends motorists take their vehicle to a trusted repair facility to perform any needed maintenance before heading out. Oil changes, fluid level checks, battery tests and tire inspections go a long way toward reducing the chances of a breakdown.

About the travel forecast:
AAA’s projections are based on economic forecasting and research by IHS Markit. The London-based business information provider teamed with AAA in 2009 to jointly analyze travel trends during major holidays. AAA has been reporting on holiday travel trends for more than two decades. The complete AAA/IHS Markit 2017 Independence Day holiday travel forecast is available here.

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