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Fewer drivers seen on July 4 as shorter holiday, economy bite: AAA

A car is stopped by a herd of bison crossing the highway in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, June 8, 2013. REUTERS/Jim Urquhart
A car is stopped by a herd of bison crossing the highway in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, June 8, 2013. REUTERS/Jim Urquhart

(Reuters) - Fewer drivers will take to the road during the Independence Day holiday in part due to a sluggish economy, but also because people will take less time off, travel group AAA said on Thursday.

The group expects 40.8 million people to travel 50 miles or more from home during the July 4 break and 34.4 million of them will drive, a drop of about 0.7 percent from the estimated 34.7 million who drove last year.

"This projection is due to the calendar effect of one fewer day in the holiday period and economic growth that is not robust enough to offset the impact of the sequester, and the effect of the end of the payroll tax cut on American families," AAA President and Chief Executive Officer Robert L. Darbelnet said.

Darbelnet was referring to government spending cuts known as the sequester that were triggered on March 1 after lawmakers failed to agree on a deficit reduction package, as well as the expiry of a Social Security tax cut this year.

July 4 fell on a Wednesday last year, which led people to take a longer vacation, the AAA said.

The average gasoline price is 10 cents a gallon higher than a year ago at $3.60, but the AAA does not think it will impact driving over the holiday and notes it is lower than earlier this year.

The busiest period on the roads will be July 3 and July 7 when travelers will leave and come back.

Based on a survey of 50,000 people, the AAA says 3.07 million people will fly for the holiday, up from 3.06 million a year ago. It also said the average distance traveled is likely to fall by 110 miles to 613 miles.

Travelers will spend $747 on average during the holiday, of which just under 30 percent will be for transportation.

(Reporting by Sabina Zawadzki. Editing by Andre Grenon)

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