With Midlands drivers undeterred by high gas prices over Fourth of July weekend, SC Highway Patrol urges caution

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Published: Jul. 1, 2022 at 9:19 PM EDT|Updated: Jul. 1, 2022 at 9:35 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Thousands of South Carolinians are hitting the roads for the holiday weekend, as the American Automobile Association (AAA) projects that nearly 48 million people nationwide will travel 50 miles or more from home in the coming days.

More than 80 percent of those people are expected to drive to their destination.

As drivers pack the roads for the Fourth of July, they’re doing so feeling a little extra pain at the pump.

However, many are undeterred, and are following through on their plans.

“We’re not going to let the gas prices stop us,” Suzie Sale said. “The weather may try, the lightning might, but no, we’re not going to do that. We have already made our menus, we’ve already done our shopping so we’re glad to be able to get together and thank goodness we can.”

Sale, a Columbia native, said she and her family have been planning this July 4th trip to Lake Wateree for three years.

According to AAA, the busiest time to travel on Friday was between the hours of 12 P.M. and 9 P.M.

To avoid traffic, AAA suggests getting on the road sometime before noon on Saturday or after 7 P.M.

Though gas prices are down in the last few weeks statewide, they are still the highest they’ve ever been for Independence Day. Additionally, South Carolina’s gas tax increased two cents on Friday to 28 cents per gallon.

RELATED STORY | South Carolina gas tax increases Friday

WIS did a rough calculation to see how much that road trip could cost from Columbia to one of several population spots in the area.

For the calculations, $4.36 per gallon was used, which is the most up-to-date average gas price in the state according to AAA.

Additionally, 24.2 miles-per-gallon was used, which is the latest average from the U.S. Department of Energy. Each of the these are round trip estimates.

It would cost about $42 dollars to head to Charleston, $55 dollars to got Myrtle Beach and $57 dollars to visit the mountains in Asheville, North Carolina.

“We don’t like it anymore than anybody else, but the main thing we care about is that everybody that’s traveling to get together this weekend is safe on the road,” Sale said. “I’m making a plea out to the folks driving on the road that are just speeding and swerving around, keep in mind that there are families out there that are trying to visit and have a good time.”

Safety is top of mind for the South Carolina Highway Patrol.

According to data from the agency, there were more than 1,000 crashes in South Carolina last Independence Day weekend, leading to 500 injuries and 15 deaths.

“We rely heavy on drivers to be smart and to be safe,” Trooper David Jones of SC Highway Patrol said. “Simple things like wearing your seatbelt, reducing distractions, slowing down. If you’re going to go out to a holiday gathering, make sure you never drink and drive. These are the leading factors to the fatal collisions that we investigate so we’re asking the community for help.”

Jones said the SC Highway Patrol will be out in full force throughout the holiday weekend, along with other local law enforcement agencies. They will be having sobriety checkpoints and driver’s license checkpoints.

For assistance from SC Highway Patrol, dial *47.

Experts say the high number of travelers driving to their destinations could be due to a recent rise in airline costs, and flight delays, which can partially be attributed to pilot shortages. Airfare nationally is up 47 percent since January.

According to the flight tracking company FlightAware, at least 18 flights out of the Columbia Metropolitan Airport were delayed Friday, and one flight was canceled.

David Anderson, who lives in Columbia, is not traveling for the Fourth of July, but said that he is willing to pay more for gas if it means waiting less time at an airport terminal.

“We’ll drive because the airlines are a no-go right now,” he said. “If you think about it, if you’re on a tight schedule and you’ve got only, I’m retired so it doesn’t matter, but if you’re on a tight schedule and you got two weeks for a vacation, you don’t want to spend it all waiting in the airport.”

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