Fourth of July Travel: By the Numbers
This Independence Day, a record-breaking 1,378,000 North Carolinians, and more than 695,000 South Carolinians will travel 50 miles or more away from home – an increase of 5 percent from last year – taking to the nation’s roads, skies, rails and waterways to honor the red, white and blue. For those planning a trip, AAA Carolinas predicts travel times in most places will take twice as long than the normal trip, with Wednesday being the busiest day.
In addition to strong economic variables, the expected increase in travelers this year is helped by Independence Day falling on a Thursday, giving travelers more flexibility to schedule a trip the weekend before or after the holiday. The Independence Day holiday period is defined as Wednesday, July 3 to Sunday, July 7.
Gas Prices Starting to Stabilize Heading into Independence Day
Gas prices have slowly but steadily started to fall since the 2019 high of $2.74 (NC) and $2.56 (SC) set in late April. Since then, the price has dropped and 23 cents and 20 cents, respectively. Carolinians will likely see prices lower than last year’s Independence Day weekend.
Travelers Paying Less for Airfare, More for Car Rentals and Hotels
According to AAA’s Leisure Travel Index, travelers taking to the skies will pay an average $171 for a round-trip flight along the top 40 domestic routes. That is the lowest Independence Day airfare in five years, and 9 percent less than last year.
However, travelers can expect to pay more to rent a car and stay at mid-range hotels this Independence Day. At $66, the average daily cost of a car rental is a slight increase of 2 percent over last year.
Top Independence Day Travel Destinations for Carolinians (According to AAA Travel Bookings)
- Myrtle Beach
- New Orleans
Increase in crashes on the roads over Independence Day
The week of Independence Day is a dangerous time to be on the roads. Over the holiday period in 2017 there were 4,130 crashes in North Carolina resulting in 19 fatalities – and increase from 2016’s 3,951 crashes and 18 fatalities. AAA Carolinas advises motorists to be extra vigilant on the roads and expect delays as well as heavy traffic and more pedestrians. Put away all distractions behind the wheel and map out your destination ahead of time.
AAA Carolinas to the Rescue this Independence Day AAA Carolinas expects to rescue more than 11,000 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.
Choices for Chase
On December 29, 2012, William Daniel ‘Chase’ Underhill was in a tragic speed racing crash. Seven teenagers in two trucks were involved. As a result of the choices made, Chase is no longer here to share his story. Thousands of lives were forever changed that cold, December evening.
Underhill was racing another vehicle driven by a friend of his, along Little River Church Road, reaching speeds of more than 90 mph. Underhill lost control of his truck and ran off the left side of the road, and when he overcorrected, the truck ran off the right side of the road and into a mailbox and tree. Neither Underhill nor his three passengers were wearing seatbelts. Underhill and another passenger were thrown from the truck and died.
“What I want to come out of this is that children need to understand their choices can affect and change people’s lives forever,” said Underhill’s mother, April Davis, in a court-hearing following the fatal crash.
As for what came out of this tragedy: Choices for Chase.
In hopes of preventing future families from experiencing the heartbreak of losing a loved one, Chase’s family created an educational non-profit organization, Choices for Chase. Spearheaded by Chase’s sister Ashley, Choices for Chase works to spread awareness on the responsibility a driver holds through demonstrating the devastating consequences and aftermath of a fatal wreck. The organization hopes to increase the desire for teenage drivers to act as role models for their passengers and for their friends.
Ashley and her team speak at local events, where she brings along the tailgate of Chase’s truck, signed by all of the people affected by his tragic death.
The organization advocates for traffic safety initiatives, including urging of the importance of wearing seatbelts and not speeding. It is also involved in the legislative push for stricter distracted driving laws in North and South Carolina.
Choices for Chase is always interested in promoting safety events and sharing its story to prevent future tragedies. If you’re interested in partnering with them, connect with Ashely here.
Study Ranks South Carolina Highest Nationwide in Rural Road Deaths with North Carolina Eleventh
A recent study done by TRIP, a national transportation research group, found that South Carolina’s rural roads have the highest traffic fatality rate in the nation. While North Carolina ranks eleventh in rural road deaths, its rural bridges are the ninth worst in the country.
The report, Rural Connections: Challenges and Opportunities in America’s Heartland, evaluates the safety and condition of the nation’s rural roads and bridges and finds that the nation’s rural transportation system is in need of immediate improvements to address deficient roads and bridges, high crash rates, and inadequate connectivity and capacity.
The rate of traffic fatalities on South Carolina’s non-Interstate, rural roads is the highest in the nation and is nearly four times higher than the fatality rate on all other roads in the state – 3.6 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles of travel vs. 0.98. The report finds that 40 percent of South Carolina’s rural roads are rated in poor or mediocre condition.
Nine percent of South Carolina’s rural bridges are rated as poor/structurally deficient. Bridges that are poor/structurally deficient have significant deterioration to the major components of the bridge and are often posted for lower weight or closed to traffic, restricting or redirecting large vehicles, including agricultural equipment, commercial trucks, school buses and emergency services vehicles.
Meanwhile, twelve percent of North Carolina’s rural bridges are rated as poor/structurally deficient, the ninth highest share in the U.S. Bridges that are poor/structurally deficient have significant deterioration to the major components of the bridge and are often posted for lower weight or closed to traffic, restricting or redirecting large vehicles, including agricultural equipment, commercial trucks, school buses and emergency services vehicles.
The rate of traffic fatalities on North Carolina’s non-Interstate, rural roads is the eleventh highest in the nation and is three-and-a-half times higher than the fatality rate on all other roads in the state – 2.43 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles of travel vs. 0.70. The report finds that 26 percent of North Carolina’s rural roads are rated in poor or mediocre condition.
Damaged and deteriorating roadways too often result in deadly crashes. AAA Carolinas advocates that making investments in critical safety improvements to rural roads will save thousands of lives each year and help move our economy forward.
America’s rural transportation system provides the first and last link in the supply chain from farm to market, connects manufacturers to their customers, supports the tourism industry, and enables the production of energy, food and fiber. Rural Americans are more reliant on the quality of their transportation system than their urban counterparts.
AAA Carolinas: Boat Safety 101
With summer upon us, many Carolinians will be taking to the water for some relief from the heat. For those that will do so on boats, AAA Carolinas is urging safety on the water. Just like driving a car, operating a boat is a big responsibility and should be done with the utmost caution.
Below are some safety tips to ensure a good day on the water:
- Take boating safety instruction and get a nationally approved boating safety education certificate. Seven out of 10 boating incidents are caused by operator error.
- Wear a life jacket—always. And make sure every passenger does so as well.
- Don’t drink for the same reasons you don’t drink and drive on land.
- Check the weather before you go and keep an eye on it while you’re on the water. Weather can go from delightful to dangerous quickly. So stay safe and get off the water quickly if you see bad weather approaching.
- Have an emergency kit on the boat (stored safely so it does not become a hazard) equipped with a flashlight, duct tape, a bucket, a first aid kit, a whistle, ropes, a mirror, a fire extinguisher and extra life jackets.
- Adhere to the boat’s capacity restriction and keep the weight on the boat balanced.
- Learn the rules of the water and use common sense when operating a boat. Pay attention to the moves of other boaters on the water to avoid collisions or dangerous wake.
- Don’t forget sunscreen and water and know the signs of heat illness – especially with the extreme heat the Carolinas are having.
AAA Carolinas also recommends boater’s insurance to keep you and your family protected. A common misconception boat owners have is that their boat, trailer, and onboard items are automatically covered, either by an existing homeowner’s insurance policy or auto insurance policy. But the truth is that most homeowner or auto policies don’t cover physical damage, liability, or theft when your boat’s on the water. Make sure you have a clear understanding of where you’re covered and where you may need additional protection.
Watercraft insurance policies provided through AAA cover various types of watercraft: powerboat, sport-fisher, sailboat, mid-performance boat, high-performance boat, bass boat, pontoon boat, ski boat, hovercraft, trawler, houseboat, airboat, and personal watercraft. Discounts on watercraft insurance policies may also be offered based on watercraft ownership experience.
ATV and Golf Cart Safety
With the summer season upon us, people bring out their ATV’s and golf carts for some family fun. We want to remind everyone to enjoy safely, as these are still powerful vehicles that can be dangerous.
In 2017, there were an estimated 18,300 golf cart injuries across the nation. In the last two years, golf cart crashes led to an estimated 35,000 trips to the ER, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Though most are equipped with seat belts, their light-weight build and lower maximum speed make them vulnerable when driving in areas with motor vehicles.
Golf Cart Safety Tips:
- Limit Passengers – There should never been more people in your cart than there are seats for.
- Obey Traffic Laws – Golf carts are subject to the same laws as vehicles, meaning no speeding or reckless driving. For a full list of golf cart laws (varying by state and type of golf cart) click here.
- Never drive distracted – Keep your attention on the road ahead of you.
- Never drink and drive.
- Take it slow on turns – Golf carts are prone to flipping because of their lighter weight. Ease up on turns and always double-check your blind spots so you don’t turn in front of someone.
- Don’t make sudden starts and stops – Driving in a jerky motion can be dangerous for passengers that are not properly secured and some carts aren’t equipped with seatbelts.
- Don’t drive in inclement weather – If your sunny day turns south and the rain comes down, don’t go for that cart ride. Golf carts are especially vulnerable to heavy rain and lightning because they are so open.
ATV Safety Tips:
- Always wear approved, compliant helmet, goggles, long sleeves, over the ankle boots and gloves.
- Never ride on the main road unless it is permitted by law. ATVs are designed to be operated off-highway.
- Never carry a passenger on a single-rider ATV and only allow passengers in ATVs that are designed for multiple people.
- Ensure that your ATV is suited for your age and size.
- Ride only on designated trails and at safe speeds.
- Supervise riders younger than 16; ATVs are not toys. · Laws specific to each state covering ATVs can be found here.