While motorists will take to the roads in numbers this Fourth of July, a mid-week holiday could mean less congestion and less incidents overall, officials say.
"Since it's on a Wednesday this year, we'll have more people traveling spread out over two weekends," said Tom Crosby vice president of communications with AAA Carolinas. "When that happens, it is usually not as congested than if the holiday were to fall on say a Friday."
Holiday travel is expected to increase by 5 percent over last year, the organization reported, due in large part to dropping fuel costs.
At an average of $2.98 a gallon for self-serve, regular gasoline, South Carolina had the lowest priced gasoline in the nation this week. That's 36 cents a gallon cheaper than Memorial Day and 61 cents cheaper than last July 4.
But while less congestion is good news for travelers, a triple digit heat wave expected to begin this weekend, could catch some motorists off guard.
Extremely high temperatures can take a toll on car engines, Crosby said.
The organization's 32 car care centers in North Carolina and South Carolina often see increased business when the mercury climbs and its roadside emergency services typically jump by 40 percent.
"We know it's coming so we're staffing up," he said.
While travelers will be out in numbers, the S.C. Highway Patrol also expects to be out in "full force" according to Lance Cpl. Brent Kelly.
"We'll be setting up checkpoints and working with local law enforcement networks," he said.
Kelly said patrols will focus on "high risk situations" such as driving under the influence and speeding but also will be checking for seat belts. Stepped up patrols will continue through July 8.
"The message we want to get out there is if you want to go somewhere and drink then have a plan in place for how you're going to get home before you start drinking," he said.
Areas of patrol also will include those roads and major arteries around Lake Murray, he said, which will be a popular draw this weekend when Lake Murray's boat parade and fireworks show will kick off Saturday.
Officers with the Department of Natural Resources also will be out in greater numbers on the 47,500-acre lake, said Lt. Robert McCullough with DNR.
"Everybody is scheduled to work this weekend," he said.
While the department expects to see greater numbers of boaters this weekend than next, officers will be out in force both weekends and throughout the week.
Officers will be looking particularly for those boating under the influence, he said. Arrests on the lake in the past two months for that offense have seen a significant increase, McCullough said last week.
"I can't really attribute that to anything other than the guys are out there working diligently," he said.
Another safety concern, McCullough said, could come from heat-related illnesses.
Those out enjoying the lake should make sure to wear sunscreen, he cautioned, and to avoid dehydration people should make sure to drink plenty of water or fluids, especially when consuming alcohol.
"Alcohol is a diuretic," he said. "When it gets to be 105 degrees out there you start sweating profusely. You don't realize how dried out you're getting."
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