A record number of people plan to travel over the upcoming holiday weekend and, as usual, most will do so by car, according to AAA.
An estimated 42.9 million people nationwide are expected to travel 50 miles or more between Thursday and Monday for the Fourth of July holiday. That’s a record number and up 1.3 percent from the 42.3 million people who traveled for the holiday last year, according to AAA.
The Fourth of July falls on a Monday, meaning many will be able to enjoy a long holiday weekend.
Nationwide, 85 percent of travelers — or 36 million people — will drive to their destination, up 1.2 percent from last year. Another 8 percent, or 3.3 million, will fly, up 2.2 percent from last year; and nearly 8 percent will use another transportation mode like train, bus, or cruise.
Within New England, 86 percent of travelers, or 2 million people, plan to drive to destinations, up almost 2 percent from last year, according to AAA.
The main factor pushing more people to drive, AAA found, is low prices at the gas pumps. Although they have crept back up a bit recently, gas prices are the lowest they’ve been since 2005.
AAA tracks daily gas price averages nationwide and said drivers in the United States collectively have saved about $20 billion on gas so far this year, compared with the same timeframe last year.
Lower prices, greater consumer confidence, and more economic activity are spurring an increase in travel, according to AAA.
In Connecticut, gas prices have been stable recently. A gallon of regular gas averaged $2.44 statewide on Tuesday, compared with $2.46 a month ago. That’s down from $2.77 a year ago. It was about eight years ago — on July 9, 2008 – when regular gas in Connecticut hit its all-time high price of $4.39 a gallon.
With more drivers on the road, however, comes an increased risk for accidents and the Fourth of July has been the deadliest day on U.S. roads in recent years, according to the nonprofit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
Every year on July 4, an average of 118 lives are lost in crashes, according to the institute — that’s 28 more deaths than the typical daily average seen between 2010 and 2014.
Motorcycles and alcohol both contribute to the spike in crashes, the institute found. July 4 is “by far” the deadliest day for motorcyclists, the group said, with an average of 26 deaths — more than double the typical daily average of 12 deaths.
The institute urges drivers and motorcyclists to use extra caution this weekend, when more people will be on the roads.
“Traveling on a major holiday is risky for many reasons,” Chuck Farmer, the institute’s vice president for research and statistical services, said in a statement. “In general, there are more people on the roads, and drivers may be navigating areas beyond their regular commuting routes. There’s a high incidence of alcohol use, which sharply raises the risk of crashing.”
He added, “Motorcyclists have to be especially careful, so wearing a regulation helmet is always a good choice even in states where they aren’t required.”
AAA found that, in addition to lower gas prices, airfares for the top 40 domestic flight routes are averaging 9 percent less this weekend than last year, costing an average of $207. Hotel rates also are down slightly, with AAA Three Diamond-rated hotels averaging $185 a night and Two Diamond-rated hotels averaging $144 a night.
Daily car rentals, however, are averaging $75 this year, up 6 percent from last year, AAA found.
For those planning to travel by train, Metro-North will run 17 extra “getaway trains” Friday on the New Haven, Harlem, and Hudson lines. A full schedule can be found on their website.
Metro-North will operate on a normal weekend schedule Saturday and Sunday, and on Monday will operate on a Sunday schedule.