Independence Day — and its promise of extended freedom from work Monday — is expected to produce a record number of travelers for a holiday weekend, industry experts say.
Be prepared, officials say.
“You’re always going to have reckless drivers — people who are speeding, drinking drivers, too — and you have to drive defensively,” said Capt. John Walters, of the Kansas Highway Patrol. “I’ve never met anybody who’s planned to go out and have an accident. They happen.”
Wear a seat belt, he said.
“You may be driving the best you can,” Walters said, “but the guy next to you or coming at you may not be … so you want people to buckle up.”
AAA reports that 40.3 million Americans will be expected to travel at least 50 miles from their homes during this holiday weekend, a 2.8 percent increase from a year ago. Of that total, 33.9 million — or 84 percent — of those people will be venturing out by motor vehicle.
“This will not only be the most heavily traveled Fourth of July ever, but this long weekend will actually put more America vacationers on the road than even the granddaddy of holiday travel weekends, Thanksgiving,” said Sandra Hughes, AAA travel vice president.
Michael Johnston, CEO and president of the Kansas Turnpike Authority, welcomes the additional traffic. AAA figures that 6.5 million travelers-by-road will originate from the Midwest, where Interstate 70 serves as a major east-west thoroughfare.
“Walmart likes Christmas,” Johnston said. “Our business relies on traffic, and the more traffic there is, the stronger our business is. … But we have to hold up our end of the bargain and provide a good, safe travel experience … and we work hard to do that.”
Walters, of the highway patrol, reminds drivers and their passengers that law-enforcement officers in Kansas now can assess fines of $5 for violations of the state’s new primary seat belt law, which permits officers to pull over violators for that specific purpose.
Not that the fine should be the driving factor for promoting safety.
“It’s just common sense,” he said. “It just takes a second to put on, and it saves lives and (prevents) serious injuries.”