The Beaufort County Sheriff's Office and the S.C. Highway Patrol will increase their presence during the Independence Day holiday weekend, even if AAA Carolinas is predicting less traffic on the road than a year ago.
About 471,300 South Carolina residents will take to the roads for the Fourth of July, down 2 percent from the 2012 holiday, according to a AAA projection. The holiday travel period for the Fourth of July is July 3 to 7.
AAA Carolinas says there will be fewer drivers on the highways during the holiday weekend because it stretches over just five days. The holiday fell on a Wednesday last year, so AAA Carolinas based its 2012 traffic estimate on a six-day travel period.
Higher gas prices will also lead to less traffic, according to a AAA Carolinas news release. Although South Carolina has the lowest average gas price in the country at $3.22 a gallon, that's still about 11 percent higher than for the same time last year. Gas, on average, cost $2.91 a gallon on July 3, 2012, according to AAA Carolinas.
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Traveling into other states could mean a price increase of 10 to 20 cents per gallon.
Nonetheless, both the Sheriff's Office and Highway Patrol plan to increase their presence throughout the county.
Beaufort County Sheriff P.J. Tanner said his office also will increase marine patrols and place extra beach patrols on Hunting Island and Hilton Head Island.
Tanner said special enforcement units would be on the lookout for drivers under the influence, and patrols near bars on Hilton Head would be increased.
"It's a busy weekend throughout the county, so we're going to increase patrols in all aspects to make sure the influx of people to the area have a long, safe holiday weekend," Tanner said.
A recent AAA traffic safety report found Independence Day to be the deadliest day of the year, in part because of drunken driving. Of the 14 traffic fatalities in South Carolina during the holiday in 2010 and 2011, 10 involved a drunken driver.
As part of preparations for the holiday travel period, the state suspended construction projects along interstate highways starting June 28 and will continue the moratorium through the night of July 7.
Follow reporter Matt McNab at twitter.com/IPBG_Matt.