"Staycations" will rule this Fourth of July, according to AAAMid Atlantic.
The group for motorists predicts that about 760,000 Marylanders will travel this coming weekend, a 2.9 percent decrease from last year.
Ragina C. Averella, spokeswoman for AAA Mid-Atlantic, said that although travel by Marylanders is down from last year, the numbers are still promising overall.
"Despite what may appear to be less than a stellar forecast for the July 4 holiday, overall travel is robust, reflecting the second consecutive year of healthy travel figures after declines for the 2008 and 2009 holidays," Averella said.
One factor affecting travel this year is the cost of fuel. Despite a respite from the spike in fuel prices in May, during which a gallon of gas briefly topped $4 a gallon, costs are still up more than 90 cents a gallon from this time last year.
"The impact of higher fuel prices this year is affecting consumers' household as well as travel budgets, which is keeping a number of travelers off the road," Averella said.
But two city residents said the gas prices would not stop their vacation plans.
Andrea Sommer of Baltimore said her family's plans to drive to Florida after the holiday weekend will not be restricted by hefty prices at the pumps.
"They are a little high, but it's not going to stop us," Sommer said during an interview at the Royal Farms store on Key Highway in South Baltimore. "The vacation experience is worth the gas prices. Getting out of the city for a little while is worth the gas prices."
Longtime Baltimore resident Kelly Burl also dismissed concerns about gas prices. "We only vacation once a year, so the gas isn't really going to impact us that much," Burl said.
Those who will be on the roads will see an increased police presence as troopers work to keep the roadways safe.
Gregory M. Shipley, spokesman for the Maryland State Police, reported that traffic safety will be the top priority this Fourth of July. "Additional strengthened enforcements will be ordered to focus on aggressive driving, speeding and drunk driving. Much of that patrol will occur on the major interstates, where the bulk of traffic will be," Shipley said.
In addition to the increased patrols and precautions, which Shipley cited as troopers' "regular responsibility," each of the 22 barracks will conduct DUI saturation patrols. Unlike checkpoints where vehicles are stopped at regular intervals, these patrols will move up and down the highway, looking specifically for drunk drivers.
Last year, there were seven deaths in Maryland as a result of traffic crashes during the Fourth of July weekend. Additionally, Maryland state police issued 7,314 traffic citations and 5,329 warnings.
Police also made 163 drunk driving arrests. Drunk driving "is something we know increases on holiday weekends," Shipley said. He advised drivers to make safe driving a priority. "That means driving the speed limit, making sure everyone's belt is buckled and not drinking and driving," the spokesman said.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun