Stronger Economy Means More July 4 Drivers

By CBS News

Published 06/26 2014 03:33PM

Updated 06/26 2014 03:35PM

CBSNews -- Is it a burst of patriotism, a sense of tradition or another sign that the economy is recovering?

Maybe it's a combination of all three factors. Motor club AAA is projecting 41 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more from their homes this upcoming Independence Day holiday weekend. That's an increase of nearly two percent from last year's figures, and a 14 percent jump compared with the recent Memorial Day holiday weekend.

And AAA says about 80 percent of those travelers will be on America's roads. Nearly 35 million people are expected to move about by car during the July 4th weekend; the highest level for that holiday since the pre-recession year of 2007.

"With school out for summer, the Fourth of July holiday is typically the busiest summer travel holiday, with five million more Americans traveling compared to Memorial Day weekend," AAA's COO Marshall Doney said in a press statement. "In line with tradition, most travelers are celebrating their newfound summer freedom with an all-American road trip."

The strengthening economy is also playing a role, as more Americans are willing to splurge a bit for the summer holidays -- and unleashing pent-up travel demand.

"Steady improvement in the economy has spurred increased consumer confidence and spending," Doney noted. "Optimistic Americans are more willing to take on debt this year, dusting off their credit cards to pay for a much-needed Independence Day getaway."

The motor club said higher gas prices wouldn't discourage travelers from driving, but might eat into their spending on dining and shopping while on their trips. The national average price of gas is $3.68 -- about 20 cents higher this year than in 2013.

The economic picture is also strong for air travelers and the air carriers.

AAA says air travel this July 4th holiday is expected to rise by one percent compared to last year, to 3.1 million travelers. Meanwhile, air travelers will find holiday airfares about five percent lower, compared to the same time period in 2013, with overall car rental costs reportedly remaining static at last year's rates.

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