1.2 million Virginians expected to travel for July Fourth

Fireworks over the Elizabeth River on July 4, 2014. (WAVY Photo).

WASHINGTON (AP/WAVY) — More than a million Virginia residents are expected to travel to celebrate July Fourth.

AAA made the projection in a statement Wednesday, saying it expects 1.2 million Virginians to travel 50 miles or more from home. The projection is a 3 percent increase over 2016.

One million Virginians are expected to drive to their destinations, and there’s good news for drivers. AAA also says that as of Tuesday, Virginia gas prices are on average $2.03 per gallon. That’s 10 cents less than at this time last year.

VDOT says more safety service patrols will be on the road to help any drivers over the holiday weekend. Most work zones will be suspended and lane closures will be lifted on interstates and other major roads as well.

Virginia State Police are asking drivers to be safe in light of the holiday and the recent rash of deadly crashes.

This past weekend, 15 people were killed in traffic crashes across the Commonwealth. Those who lost their lives in traffic crashes between June 23 and June 25 included drivers, passengers, motorcyclists and pedestrians ranging from four months to 74 years of age.

State police are increasing patrols over the weekend. Beginning Saturday, troopers will take part in Operation Combined Accident Reduction Effort (CARE), a state-sponsored, national program aimed at reducing crashes, death and injury due to impaired driving, speeding and failing to wear a seat belt.

“Halfway through 2017, there have already been 20 more traffic deaths compared to this date in 2016,” said Colonel W. Steven Flaherty, Virginia State Police Superintendent. “Let’s try to turn this year around and work towards saving lives, beginning with this July 4 weekend. Traffic crashes and deaths are prevented when drivers and passengers simply follow the rules of the road – this includes never driving impaired, avoiding distractions while driving and always wearing a seatbelt.”

During the 2016 July 4 weekend, Virginia troopers arrested 106 drunk drivers and ticketed 9,487 speeders and 2,590 reckless drivers. They also cited 821 individuals for failing to wear a seat belt and 360 motorists for child safety seat violations.

State police also want to remind drivers of the state’s “move over” law, which requires you to move over when approaching an emergency vehicle on the side of the road. If you can’t move over, you must cautiously pass the emergency vehicle. The law also applies to workers in vehicles with amber lights.