Auto travel in Arkansas and surrounding states is expected to break records during Independence Day, according to a spokesperson for the American Automobile Association.
The organization predicts that 4.1 million people will travel by car in Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Texas between Thursday and Sunday.
“This will be the highest on record since we started recording in 2000,” AAA spokesman Nick Chabarria said Thursday.
Nationally, travel – including car, plane and train – is expected to be the second highest on holiday weekend, with 47.7 million travelers. The record was set in 2019.
Chabarria said fuel costs were around $ 2.78 per gallon on Thursday. That’s about 92 cents more than last year, which was lower than the pandemic.
Arkansas is expected to have the sixth lowest average gasoline cost in the country, he said.
“If there is a silver lining for vacation drivers, this would be it,” said Chabarria. “Many of the surrounding states are also among the lowest averages in the county.”
According to the AAA report, the worst times to hook traffic are expected to be between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. Thursday, 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. Friday, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday and 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. Monday. The best times to travel should be after 7 p.m. on Thursday, before noon on Friday, after 2 p.m. on Saturday, all day on Sunday, and before 1 p.m. on Monday.
Spokesman Bill Sadler said Arkansas State Police will participate in the National Highway Safety Administration’s “Drive Sober or Get Fired” national law enforcement campaign coordinated by the National Highway Safety Administration. Additional soldiers will be on the highways from Friday afternoon until Monday evening.
“Troop commanders in each of the state’s 12 troops will use their authority to change schedules so that additional soldiers are on the highways,” Sadler said.
The focus will be on patrols for people driving under the influence on highways during the weekend. Sadler said it’s typical to see a spike in impaired driving citations over the holiday weekend.
“We encourage drivers who may be drinking alcohol to use their best judgment and contact a friend or other form of transportation to get them home or to take that unexpected ride while they participate in the festivities,” said Sadler.
Soldiers will also monitor impaired driving, Sadler said. This includes drivers paying attention to electronic devices or a number of other circumstances, such as parents distracted by children in the back seat.
Weather forecasts remain uncertain, but meteorologists warn that early data shows conditions could be volatile.
Dylan Cooper, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in North Little Rock, said Friday the Climate Prediction Center was predicting below normal temperatures and above normal precipitation.
“This tells us that we will be in an unstable temperature configuration,” he said. “We’ll probably want to watch this one.”
It is possible that conditions will meet before or after the holidays, he said.
“If we end up with stormy weather around July 4th, we would like to practice lightning safety,” Cooper said. “If there is lightning, don’t shoot fireworks. Let thunderstorms pass.”