SOUTH BEND -- More than 42.9 million people will be traveling by air and road this Fourth of July and in Indiana, an estimated 889,000 residents will add to the majority of vacationers traveling by car.
This year is different, however.
The holiday falls on a Wednesday and, as stated by AAA Chicago public affairs specialist Nick Jarmusz, allows vacationers to take an extended break.
"People are able to string together a longer 'weekend' by starting their vacation on Friday, June 29th, and taking two full weekends off along with a full week," Jarmusz said. "At least 50 percent of people were already on the road by Saturday."
Gas prices have also helped the rise in travel this year. Jarmusz said this is partially due to the relief of the economy and the minimized stress of gas prices.
"In order to compensate for gas, people will get less expensive lodging, food, etc. It doesn't really affect their decision," Jarmusz said. "People are eager to vacation again after the stress of the economic downturn and when it comes to gas, people have already made up their minds."
South Bend resident Kurt Nowak is on his way to Angola, Ind., and said neither economics nor gas prices deterred him from traveling this holiday.
"The economy didn't spark our decision to stay or go; we weren't really bothered by it and gas isn't an issue," Nowak said. "We had a friend in South Carolina pay about $2.79 per gallon for gas during their trip."
According to Gas-buddy.com, gas prices in South Bend are down from $3.67 per gallon to $3.35 per gallon and despite rising prices trending the number of travelers has increased.
Automobile travel has risen by 4 percent since 2011, which averaged to about 34.1 million people traveling, making this year's 35.5 million estimate the highest in the past decade, according to research by AAA, one of the nation's largest travel agencies.
This kind of estimate has also prompted toll road operators and highway officers to prepare for more traffic dur-ing the holiday.
"We just began the new traffic enforcement project a few weeks ago in order to make the roads safer," Indiana State Police Sgt. Jerry Goodin said. "The CARE project, which stands for Combined Accident Reduction Effort, is a federally funded program and puts about 150 more troopers on the road from July 3 to July 8. Last year, more then 36 people lost their lives around this time and we need to work to keep those numbers from rising."
Amber Kettring, spokeswoman for the Indiana Toll Road Concession Co., said that between Wednesday and the weekend, the toll road is expected to gain heavy traffic.
"We have halted any lane closures," said Kettring. "All repairs and maintenance were completed before Memorial Day and won't pick back up until after Labor Day."
Both Kettring and Goodin stated with the rise in traffic, drivers must take extra precautions while on the road mainly complying with speed limits and responsible driving.
"If you're going to be traveling long distances, make sure you are well rested," said Goodin. "A fatigued driver is as dangerous as an impaired driver or a distracted driver. Avoid tailgating and remember the two-second rule. Don't drink and drive. Obey the speed limits and buckle up. If you seem distracted, such as weaving into lanes or we see you texting, there is a good chance you'll get a ticket."
Staff writer Krystal Oblinger: