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July Fourth travel is expected to set records. Here’s the worst day to be on the road.

Sights and sounds from the Grand Strand’s Fourth of July celebrations

North myrtle Beach held its annual 'Salute From the Shore' while Ocean Lakes Campground celebrated with its annual 4th of July Golf Cart Parade.
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North myrtle Beach held its annual 'Salute From the Shore' while Ocean Lakes Campground celebrated with its annual 4th of July Golf Cart Parade.

A record number of Carolinians are expected to travel by car and plane to getaways over the July Fourth holiday, according to AAA Carolinas.

AAA officials credit lower gas prices, low unemployment, strong consumer spending and more disposable income for the expected increases.

About 2 million Carolinians -- roughly 1.37 million NC residents and 688,500 SC residents -- are expected to travel 50 miles or more away from home this year. That’s 4.3% more travelers than 2018, which held the previous record.

Wednesday is expected to be the worst day of the week to be on the road, according to AAA Carolinas.

North Carolina’s current average price of a gallon of gasoline is $2.43 — 23 cents less than 2018, according to AAA, which expects the cost to drop even further into the summer.

South Carolina’s $2.26 average also is 23 cents less than this time last year, according to AAA. Starting Monday, however, drivers will pay 2 cents more in gas tax per gallon of fuel, bringing the total tax paid to nearly 23 cents a gallon, The State reported.

The predicted increase in travelers means drivers should be “extra vigilant” and expect delays, AAA Carolinas officials said in its annual July Fourth travel forecast announcement.

The week of July Fourth is traditionally a “dangerous time to be on the roads,” according to AAA Carolinas, and this year could be worse, with 4.3% more Carolinians driving to their destinations than last year.

According to the latest available figures, 4,130 crashes resulting in 19 deaths occurred in North Carolina over the July Fourth holiday in 2017, compared with 3,951 crashes and 18 deaths the previous year, AAA Carolinas officials said.

AAA Carolinas, meanwhile, predicts about 5.3% more Carolinians will fly this year — about 107,000 North Carolinians and 65,000 South Carolinians.

According to AAA travel bookings, the top July Fourth destinations for Carolinians are Myrtle Beach, Charleston and New Orleans by car, and Iceland, Italy and France by air.

The predicted increase in Carolinian travelers mirrors an expected 4.1% rise nationwide — representing a record 49 million travelers.

The previous mark, 47 million travelers, was set in 2018, according to AAA.

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Joe Marusak has been a reporter for The Charlotte Observer since 1989 covering the people, municipalities and major news events of the region, and was a news bureau editor for the paper. He currently reports on breaking news.
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