AAA prepares for record number of calls this weekend

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HARTFORD, Conn. — Experts said a record number of people could travel this holiday weekend.

According to AAA, 43 million Americans are expected to hit the road for the Fourth of July.

So far, travelers have been reporting a smooth ride.

“Traffic has been light, no problem over the [George Washington] Bridge [and] Connecticut has been OK,” said Michael Halpin of New Jersey.

Halpin said he passed through Middletown on his way to Maine.

Though he said his vehicle is a gas guzzler, he was pleased by the fact that fuel is at the lowest point in more than a decade, according to AAA.

Eighty-four percent of travelers were said to be driving to their destinations.

“Prices are low so I figured give it a shot, travel,” Halpin said.

Others said the prices at the pump were not a factor in their plans.

“This [vehicle] doesn’t use much gas to begin with,” said Bill Mignault, a traveler. “As long as I get there safe, I’m happy.”

Mignault said safety is his top priority.

“[I’m worried about] road rage [and] people in a hurry, people can’t get there quick enough,” he said.

AAA said it expects more than 370,000 drivers to be in need of rescuing due to dead batteries, flat tires or lockouts.

“AAA travel projections indicate a record number of motorists will be celebrating their independence by getting away for the holiday weekend,” said Amy Parmenter, an AAA spokesperson. “So, they’ll likely be dependent on AAA rescue crews in record number as well.”

Last year, the auto club said it responded to 3,500 calls for emergency roadside assistance in the greater Hartford, Connecticut area. Almost half of those calls required a tow truck.

Most of the calls were for dead batteries or flats. However, 500 people locked themselves out of their vehicles and 70 of them ran out of gas.

AAA recommended checking battery conditions before taking a trip.

It also provided a checklist of tips for drivers:

  • Check tire pressure – don’t forget to check the spare.
  • Check tire tread – Exchange.AAA.com offers a simple visual check using a penny or a quarter.
  • Check air conditioning.
  • Check windshield wipers to make sure they are in good working order and check wiper fluids.
  • Check headlights for functionality and clean lenses.
  • Make sure cell phones are fully charged so emergency calls can be made.
  • Make sure AAA membership is up to date.

“The message is pretty simple,” Parmenter said. “Spend a little time on car care before you set out to avoid a big setback along the way.”

AAA also advised that other modes of travel have increased this holiday weekend. Compared to last year, air travel, cruises and train use have all risen.