AAA Projects Sharp Increase In July 4th Travel

Photo credit: Robert Simmons

HAMILTON – AAA Mid-Atlantic projects that approximately 1,071,000 New Jersey residents will travel during the upcoming July 4th holiday weekend, an increase of 19% compared to 2009 4th of July travel, and a dramatic increase of 28% compared to the Memorial Day holiday travel forecast just 6 weeks ago.

How things shake out:

  • 19.5% of New Jersey’s 8.7 million residents are going to travel during the 4th of July Holiday.
  • 945,000 are projected to travel by automobile; an increase of  19% from 2009
  • 56,500 are projected to travel by air; an increase of 10% from 2009
  • 69,000 are projected to travel by train, bus, watercraft or other mode; an increase of 17% from 2009

“The July 4th holiday is typically the busiest time of year for auto travel since nearly all school-aged children are out of school, which explains the drastic increase from those who traveled for the Memorial Day holiday.” said Tracy E. Noble, spokesperson AAA Mid-Atlantic. “Our forecast shows the state’s eagerness to take the trip that they may have been putting off.”

Gas prices don’t seem to be playing a large part of the travel decision this year as prices are only 9 cents higher than they were a year ago for the July 4th holiday, currently averaging $2.61 in New Jersey, down $1.38 from the high we saw in 2008.

Nationally, AAA predicts the number of Americans traveling for the Fourth of July holiday weekend will increase 17% from 2009 with approximately 35 million travelers taking a trip of 50 miles or more away from home.  Last year, 29.8 million Americans traveled during the same period. The 2010 Fourth of July holiday travel period is defined as Thursday, July 1 to Monday, July 5.

AAA also cautions that the Fourth of July marks the busiest travel holiday for emergency roadside services calls. As temperatures rise, vehicles are put to the test. Without preventive maintenance the summer heat increases the likelihood of a motorist experiencing a vehicle failure, leaving them unexpectedly – and dangerously – stranded on the side of the road.

AAA expects it will come to the aid of 6,500 stranded motorists during the holiday weekend in New Jersey. Batteries can be especially affected by heat and AAA anticipates it will replace 300 auto batteries on the roadside and jump start an additional 1,000 during the holiday weekend. The motor club also will aid approximately 950 motorists locked out of their vehicles and change about 1,200 flat tires in the Garden State.

Additionally, motorists don’t realize the toll of summer heat on cars. Common problems associated with extreme heat include engines overheating or losing power due to heavy electrical demands from air conditioning.

AAA suggests going over the following checklist before starting out on a road trip this summer:

  • Check the battery. Batteries more than two years old should be tested by a qualified technician to ensure they have the starting power to handle the stress of extreme temperatures.
  • Check oil level and condition. Driving under extreme conditions, such as over mountains or towing a heavy trailer? Switch to a motor oil with higher viscosity. Check the owner’s manual for specific oil recommendations.
  • Check air conditioning system performance.  If needed, have it serviced by a qualified technician.  Do not use non-approved substitute refrigerants.  Check the owner’s manual for approved types.
  • Inspect antifreeze/coolant level and condition. Ensure the proper 50/50 mixture of water and coolant is present.

Other under-the-hood components such as belts and hoses also are stressed by extreme heat and should be regularly inspected.  Be sure the vehicle engine is turned off before inspecting these items.  If your car overheats, never attempt to remove the radiator cap until the engine has cooled. Coolant in the radiator is under pressure and can flash into steam, causing severe burns.

If motorists are not comfortable performing this inspection, a qualified auto service facility, such as those recognized by AAA’s Approved Auto Repair Program, can conduct a thorough examination.

Finally, because temperatures inside parked cars can quickly reach dangerous levels, AAA Mid-Atlantic offers the following additional advice:

  • Never leave children or animals unattended in a car—not even for a short period of time. Outside air temperatures in the nineties can rise to 125 degrees inside the vehicle within 20 minutes, causing brain damage or death.
  • When parked, use a sun shield to cover the windshield to minimize heat buildup and to help protect the car’s interior. Cover metal and plastic parts on seat belts and child safety seats to prevent burns.
  • Open the vehicle’s doors and let the interior cool for a few minutes before entering.

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