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Gas prices help patriotic travelers

Editorial

It looks like motorists will be getting a break on gas prices this Independence Day holiday, though it’s still hard to look at fuel that costs more than $3 a gallon as a bargain.

In Albany, a number of gas stations have regular gas selling for $3.179 a gallon, with AAA’s Fuel Gauge Report saying Tuesday morning’s average cost for the metro Albany area was $3.239. That average cost is down 9.2 cents per gallon from a week ago, though it’s well above the average for this time last year — $3.044. Among Georgia’s metropolitan statistical areas, metro Albany had the third- best average, trailing only Augusta ($3.234) and Macon ($3.208).

The Georgia average on Tuesday morning was $3.356, which was much better than the national average of $3.487. Both are a good bit higher than this period in 2012, when Georgia’s average was $3.131 and the national average was $3.330.

Still, any decrease is good news for the more than 960,000 Georgians that AAA Travel expects will travel this holiday. Adding in air travelers and those using other means, AAA Travel is projecting that 1.1 million residents of Georgia to be at least 50 miles from home at some point over the Fourth of July holiday period, which starts Wednesday and ends Sunday night at midnight.

This is the second year in a row that pump prices have slid leading into the Independence Day holiday period, which the overall busiest travel time of the year for Americans. In fact, AAA says about 6 million more people travel on the Fourth of July holidays than on Memorial Day weekend, widely seen as the springboard for summer traveling.

“Although gas prices are higher than they were this time last year, the price trend is relatively the same with gas prices retreating before millions of Americans travel for Independence Day,” Jessica Brady, AAA spokeswoman for The Auto Club Group, said. “About 41 million people plan to take a trip this holiday and gas prices are not expected to deter them.”

AAA Travel has projected that 40.8 million Americans will travel this week, with is less than 1 percent fewer than the 41.1 million who traveled last Independence Day. The others likely are sitting out the weekend, not the summer. Brady said that numerous surveys have indicated that more Americans than last year are planning to take summer vacations this year.

If you’re one of the travelers who’ll be on the road this week, take care. With the roads — particularly those between here and the Florida beaches — likely to be crowded, we hope that everyone will buckle up and maintain a watchful eye for other drivers on the highways. The birthday of the nation is certainly something we should all take pride in and celebrate, but celebrations — particularly any involving alcohol — need to wait until the vehicle’s parked.