Car care

Pyrotechnics in the sky this week will be accompanied by an explosion of commuters.

A record-high 48.9 million Americans will be traveling for the Independence Day holiday, according to projections from AAA. The association has been tracking holiday travel throughout North America since 2000, and this is the highest figure for any holiday.

If that estimate is on the mark, it would represent a 4.1% increase over the number of travelers during the July 4 week last year. That equates to an additional 1.9 million people heading out.

Of those 48.9 million commuters, AAA expects 41.4 million to travel by automobile. That means delays and breakdowns – which will extend and increase the incidence of delays.

This scenario, if it plays out, could fry you more than the July sun: Motorists “could face delays as much as four times a normal commute.” AAA attributes that projection to INRIX, a global mobility analytics company, which also predicts that Wednesday, the day before the holiday, will be the worst day to be in your vehicle.

Some will come to a complete stop thanks to dead batteries, flat tires, lockouts or other issues. The association expects to respond to nearly 367,000 motorists.

An estimated 6.6 million people are expected to be traveling in the populous Mid-Atlantic Region – Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey. The vast majority – 5.5 million, according to AAA – will do so by auto, a 3.9% increase from July 2018; 577,000 by air (a 6.7% jump); and 508,000 by bus, train, ship or other mode (a marginal 0.5% bump).

This is a traditionally festive travel holiday, with warm temperatures and a bounty of beaches and tourist destinations within a reasonable drive. But there are other factors, mostly economic, making this an enticing vacation week.

Gasoline prices are lower than a year ago. AAA’s online gas chart Friday morning showed the national average to be $2.70.8 per gallon, down 14.5 cents, and Pennsylvania’s average to be $2.90.2, a 9.7-cent drop.

Add low unemployment, an uptick in consumer spending and increases in disposable income to the equation, and this should be a big holiday season.

So have a blast this Fourth of July, and don’t be in a rush. It may take a little longer to get there.

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