07/03/14 — North Carolinians taking to the highways for July Fourth

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North Carolinians taking to the highways for July Fourth

By From staff reports
Published in News on July 3, 2014 1:46 PM

AAA is expecting the largest number of drivers in more than a decade to hit the highways this holiday weekend.

And law enforcement officials and travel experts say that if you hit the road, be careful -- traditionally, this weekend is also one of the most dangerous.

"July 4th has proven to be one of the deadliest days of the year for traffic deaths," said David E. Parsons, president and CEO of AAA Carolinas.

The holiday spirit and corresponding celebrations seem to outweigh caution, courtesy and common sense by drivers this time of year, he said.

AAA estimates more than a million North Carolinians will take to the road for the July 4 holiday. And with 34.8 million travelers hitting the road nationally, the N.C. State Highway Patrol is preparing for a long enforcement period.

"Over the Fourth of July holiday in 2013, that is July 3 through July 8, the Highway Patrol investigated 137 wrecks," First Sgt. Jeff Gordon said.

Thirteen of those crashes were alcohol-related. Three were fatal.

This year, troopers are preparing to target aggressive driving and flagrant violations of the state's traffic laws, such as excessive speeding, following too closely, erratic lane changes, safe movement violations, texting while driving and other forms of reckless endangerment, officials said

Drivers factoring in the anticipated high volume of motorists and heavy law enforcement presence will have another factor to consider before starting their vacations today -- gas prices.

North Carolina's gas prices are 16 cents higher than they were at this time last year, partially due to the conflict in Iraq. The highest gas price comes in at $3.64 per gallon in Durham, and the lowest price is $3.50 per gallon in Greensboro.

Some of the cheapest gas in the nation is in South Carolina, with prices as low as $3.38 per gallon. Georgia and Florida have the next lowest prices in the South outside of North Carolina, at $3.58 and $3.61 per gallon, respectively.

And lastly, both state and local officials caution motorists to drink responsibly and to not get behind the wheel if consuming alcohol.

Mike Myrick, business manager of the Wayne County ABC Board, said July 4th sales are some of the most substantial throughout the year, coming in behind only the Christmas season.

The night before July 4, 2013, the Wayne County ABC Board did $45,000 in sales countywide.

"The big thing is that we're a controlled state, meaning we aren't concerned with making a profit," Myrick said.

That means the board doesn't put dollars ahead of lives, and neither should holiday travelers, he said.

"Our guys aren't afraid to say no. And while we might be fifth in the nation for revenue, we are 49th in the nation for consumption."

Citizens are being asked to help out this holiday weekend and to report drunken drivers, highway crashes and stranded motorists to the highway patrol by dialing *HP (*47) on their mobile devices. The call is toll-free.