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The Independence Day weekend is upon us, which means many people who live in the Tri-State will enjoy an extended weekend for travel. It also means a larger-than-normal number of visitors passing through the area on our roads.

As noted by Herald- Dispatch reporter Fred Pace, the number of travelers this weekend are expected to nearly fully recover to pre-pandemic levels, according to AAA.

AAA’s 2021 forecast predicts an increase of 40% compared to last July 4, reaching the second-highest travel volume on record. AAA did not issue an Independence Day holiday travel forecast in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The forecast shows approximately 47.7 million Americans will take to the nation’s roads and skies this Independence Day weekend, which is measured from July 1 through July 5 by AAA.

AAA said this will be the second-highest Independence Day travel volume on record, trailing only 2019.

Travel by car will be the highest on record for this holiday and 5% more than the previous record set in 2019. Also, with 3.5 million people planning to fly, air travel volumes this Independence Day will reach 90% of pre-pandemic levels and increase 164% compared to last year, AAA said.

“There was a major uptick in travel for Memorial Day, and it appears Independence Day will continue the trend,” said Bevi Powell, senior vice president, AAA East Central. “Americans are ready to catch up on those missed opportunities with their friends and families from last year, especially to sunny destinations like beaches and lakes.”

Those of us who remain close to home this weekend will have to contend with that traffic on Interstate 64, U.S. 60, the West Virginia Turnpike and elsewhere. Construction zones on I-64 will be more hazardous with all that traffic. Patience, courtesy and common sense — sometimes rare traits among drivers on that road in the best of times — will be more important than ever.

This weekend will provide many of us with a break from news that we are still trying to process: Bill Cosby’s release from prison; the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in an Arizona case pertaining to voting; the vote-counting debacle in New York City; the never-ending arguments over what happened at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6; and many others.

Safety on the road and safety at home — particularly with fireworks — will be of increased importance this year. Celebrate the holiday, but please do it wisely.

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