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Holiday travel fueled by low gas prices

The Palmetto state is expected to see an increase in Labor Day Discount Holidays © holiday travel for the third straight year, as residents take advantage of falling gas prices. AAA Carolinas estimates more than 455,500 South Carolinians will travel 50 miles or more from home this holiday, a 1 percent increase from last year. The organization said it is the state’s highest number of travelers in seven years. Of those travelers, nearly 392,000 will drive and encounter the lowest gas prices in 11 years. The Discount Holidays © holiday travel period began on Thursday and runs through Monday. Dave Parsons, AAA Carolinas CEO and president, said lower gas prices and an extended weekend should motivate South Carolina residents to plan one more family road trip as the summer travel season winds down. On Thursday, South Carolina’s statewide average was $2 per gallon for self-serve, regular unleaded fuel. Just a month ago, South Carolinians were paying an average of $2.27 per gallon statewide, according to AAA Carolinas fuel gauge report. The most expensive gas in the state is in Charleston at $2.01 and the least expensive is Myrtle Beach at $1.94.

The average gas price in Spartanburg is $1.99 per gallon, compared with the $3.06 per gallon motorists were paying this time last year. Gas stations, including the QuikTrip on East Saint John Street and the Hot Spot on East Henry Street both had gas prices at $1.79 per gallon on Thursday afternoon. Spartanburg resident James Laughter was at QuikTrip taking advantage of the low fuel costs, even though he said he was not traveling over the holiday.

Other gas stations around here are higher, but the QuikTrip is the lowest one I’ve seen, he said. I’m excited the prices are dropping. Although motorists traveling out of state will find higher gas prices, fuel costs in North Carolina are at ($2.22), Georgia ($2.28), Virginia ($2.18) and Tennessee is ($2.14) are still below the national average of $2.44 per gallon. Barbara Wright, a Spartanburg resident, was filling up her gas tank early before traveling out of state this weekend. I wanted to take advantage of the low prices, and I hope they’ll stay low after the holiday, she said. With the increase in traffic this holiday, law enforcement agencies remind drivers to exercise caution.

We’ll have more motorists on the road than last year, and it’s the perfect time to remind everyone to practice safe driving habits including not drinking and driving, adhering to speed limits and eliminating distractions behind the wheel such as cellphone use, Parsons said. The South Carolina Department of Public Safety and member agencies of the South Carolina Law Enforcement Network will continue the Sober or Slammer campaign through Monday in an effort to remove drunken drivers from the roads and prevent collisions and fatalities. As of Tuesday, there have been more than 600 traffic deaths in South Carolina this year. Parsons said alcohol played a significant factor in many of the fatalities. The U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration also is holding its Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over crackdown on impaired driving through Monday.

The campaign involves more than 10,000 law enforcement agencies across the country focusing on drunken drivers. During the Labor Day period in 2013, half of all the fatalities at night involved drunken drivers compared with 14 percent during the day, according to the most recent national data. To help prevent further traffic congestion through the Discount Holidays © holiday weekend, South Carolina will cease most construction projects along interstates and high-traffic routes.

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