July 4 Weekend to See Most Drivers in 7 Years, AAA Says

The most Americans in seven years will travel by car over the July 4 Independence Day holiday and they’ll be paying for the most expensive fuel since 2008 with credit cards, according to a forecast by AAA.

About 34.8 million people plan to drive 50 miles or more from home during the five days ending July 6, up from 34.1 million last year and the most since 2007, Florida-based AAA, the biggest U.S. motoring organization, said in a statement. Gasoline pump prices are the highest level for this time of year in six years, AAA data show.

“Steady improvement in the economy has spurred increased consumer confidence and spending,” Marshall L. Doney, AAA’s chief operating officer, said in the statement. “Optimistic Americans are more willing to take on debt this year.”

Drivers will account for more than 80 percent of the estimated 41 million people that will celebrate the holiday with a getaway, AAA said. Travel volume this year will be 6 percent higher than the average of the past 10 years.

The average price of regular gasoline at the pump was $3.684 a gallon yesterday, according to AAA data. That’s up 14.3 cents from $3.551 a year ago.

Brent oil, the international benchmark that’s the basis for imported crude and fuel prices, gained 4.2 percent this month to $114 a barrel yesterday on the ICE Futures Europe exchange as the fighting in Iraq raised concern that supplies from OPEC’s second-largest producer may be disrupted.

Pump Prices

Pump prices have climbed 1.5 cents this month, heading for the first June increase since 2010.

“In recent years gas prices have declined in the weeks leading up to Independence Day, but this has not occurred this summer due to higher crude oil costs as fighting intensifies in Iraq,” AAA said in the statement.

The overall number of travelers will increase by 1.9 percent this year, while air travel is set to climb 1.1 percent to 3.1 million people, AAA said.

The projections by AAA are based on research and forecasts from IHS Global Insight.

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