Independence Day weekend means more Americans are roadtripping, despite high gas prices

Gas prices will be up 15 to 20 cents higher this Independence Day weekend compared to last year, experts predict. But, undeterred by high gas prices, 34.8 million Americans will travel by car to celebrate Independence Day – a six-year high, according to AAA.

By , Staff writer

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    Traffic stacks up on the eastbound Santa Monica Freeway in Los Angeles, as residents of Southern California leave work to start their holiday weekend, July 3, 2008. This July 4 weekend, 41 million Americans will be traveling 50 miles or more, according to AAA.
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More Americans will be traveling this Independence Day weekend by car, but drivers will see an uptick in gas prices due to violence in Iraq

This year, 41 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more from home during the July 4 holiday weekend, according to AAA Travel. That means between July 2 and July 6, there will be almost 2 percent more Americans compared to this time last year, and nearly 14 percent more people traveling than during the Memorial Day holiday weekend.

Of those 41 million Americans, 34.8 million of them will travel by car, according to AAA Travel. It is the highest level since 2007. Part of the reason: July 4 falls on a Friday this year, giving people a long weekend for traveling. However, the fact that gas prices will be 15 to 20 cents higher per gallon compared to last year won’t deter Americans from traveling, experts say. 

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“Based on our research, we find that Americans rarely want to cancel their trip due to the high price of gas,” AAA spokesman Michael Green says in a phone interview. “They look forward to traveling to places like the beach, the lake, and their friends’ houses, and people don’t want to give that up due to the high price of gasoline. 

However, AAA has found that people travel on fixed budgets, Mr. Green says. If people pay more gas prices, they’ll cut back on other expenses such as shopping or dining, he adds. But, the higher gas prices won’t stop Americans from traveling – in fact, the higher gas prices ‘have become the new normal,’ Green says.

AAA previously predicted gas prices to fall by 10 to 15 cents in June, but that didn’t include the extremist group Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant capturing Mosul and concerns of possible disruption of oil producing in Iraq.

Gas prices will stay expensive due to high crude oil costs and higher demand, but they won’t go up much higher, Green says. Gas prices will most likely stay within the $3.60 to $3.70 per gallon range. It is ‘unlikely’ that most Americans will pay $4 per gallon for gas, he adds.

That said, the two wild cards to this year’s gas prices are if Iraq’s oil production gets disrupted, Green says, or if a major hurricane hits refineries in the Gulf of Mexico. This weekend, a depression off the coast of Florida turned into Tropical Storm Arthur, the first named storm of hurricane season. It is expected to gain strength and hit the East Coast, but it isn't clear if it will have a significant effect on gas prices.

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