Delaware motorists getting ready to hit the road for Fourth of July

DOVER — All roads in Delaware will lead to Fourth of July celebrations this weekend.

So, virtually all highways will be prone to bumper-to-bumper traffic and backups — particularly those headed to beach areas.

Jim Lardear, spokesman for Wilmington-based AAA Mid-Atlantic, said it is projected 43 million Americans will travel this weekend, including 115,000 Delawareans.

That’s a 1.6 percent increase over last year.

The anticipated traffic volume is expected to be the highest Fourth of July travel weekend on record with 5 million more travelers compared to Memorial Day weekend.

AAA defines the holiday travel period as today until Monday.

Delaware State Police Master Cpl. Gary Fournier said motorists just need to take their time and pay attention. That’s especially important if traveling between the work zone on Del. 1 between Frederica and Thompsonville, where the speed limit drops to 45 mph near the overpass construction.

“Obviously, if you are driving this weekend we want you to take your time and don’t be aggressive,” Master Cpl. Fournier said. “Be on the lookout for aggressive drivers and report them to 911.

“Drivers need to slow down and take their time and allow spacing between cars, especially if going to the beach.

“We will have troopers on patrol looking for drunk drivers, distracted drivers and drivers on their cellphones. People need to pay attention and stay sober when they are behind the wheel.”

Delaware Department of Transportation Secretary Jennifer Cohan said she just wants drivers to enjoy a safe trip to their destinations.

“The July 4th holiday weekend should be a time for celebrating with family and friends and enjoying summer activities,” Secretary Cohan said. “Unfortunately, it can also be a time of loss and suffering when people are killed or seriously injured in traffic crashes caused by speeding, distracted driving and driving under the influence.”

In an effort to keep the record number of holiday travelers moving as smoothly as possible, DelDOT has suspended planned lane closures on on Del. 1 and other major highways beginning at noon Friday.

Construction projects will resume Wednesday.

Additional lanes will also be open in expectation of high traffic volumes at Delaware’s toll plazas on I-95 in Newark, Biddles Toll Plaza and Dover Toll Plaza on Del. 1.

“Lower gas and airfare prices are prompting more people to travel for the long Fourth of July weekend,” Mr. Lardear predicted. “Nearly 10,000 more Delawareans will travel for Independence Day compared to Memorial Day.”

The average price of a gallon of gasoline in Delaware on Wednesday was $2.17, more than 50 cents cheaper than a year ago. It marks the lowest Independence Day weekend gasoline prices since 2005.

So far in 2016 there have been 57 fatalities on Delaware roadways, with two of those occurring in work zones.

Verizon employee Heath B. Janssen, 41, of Dover, was killed when he was struck by a vehicle while working near the shoulder of southbound Del. 1 on June 7.

“This July 4th, let’s do all we can to keep ourselves and other drivers safe by slowing down, turning off our cellphones, using designated drivers when necessary, and being especially alert when driving through work zones,” Ms. Cohan said. “Too many drivers are speeding through work zones and are failing to pay attention behind the wheel. Drivers in Delaware can and must do better.”

DelDOT officials said one tip for easier travel is for motorists to adjust their routes or travel times by using the DelDOT app, which can be downloaded for free.

For up-to-the-minute travel information, motorists can view “Live Traffic” conditions in New Castle, Kent, and Sussex counties at DelDOT Live Traffic Conditions or tune to WTMC-AM 1380.

Master Cpl. Fournier couldn’t say for sure when he thought the best time to travel would be this weekend, but he said he knows the worst.

“Everybody’s going to start leaving at different times, but try to plan your trips in advance, if you can,” he said. “Probably biggest traffic will take place on Friday afternoon when you combine rush hour traffic with Fourth of July travelers.”

Delaware State News staff writer Mike Finney can be reached at mfinney@newszap.com.

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