(USA TODAY) — Americans won't just celebrate the Fourth of July next week, but cheap gas too.
Some 37.5 million motorists will hit the road, up 2.9% from last year, in a driving marathon that should make it the most traveled Fourth of July holiday weekend ever, AAA says. It helps that the holiday falls on Tuesday, making it a four-day affair.
On Thursday, prices were about a nickel cheaper than a year ago. A gallon of regular gasoline was going for $2.24 a gallon nationally, down from $2.29 at the same time last year, according to AAA's daily Fuel Gauge Report.
Markets with the cheapest gas this week included South Carolina at $1.93 a gallon, Oklahoma at $1.95, Alabama at $1.99, Mississippi at $2 and Missouri at $2.01, AAA says.
Gasoline prices are so low that the expected price on Independence Day will be cheaper than it was on New Year's Day for the first time since GasBuddy.com, a consumer data tool, began tracking them 17 years ago.
Propelling the drop at the pump is this year's fall in the price of crude oil, a result of a global glut. And that can only makes things better for motorists: Prices could keep falling right through the holiday, when they could dip as low as $2.21, GasBuddy projects.
It could be the lowest price on the Fourth of July since 2005.
With more motorists beating a path to resorts, campgrounds, the mountains or the beach, heavy traffic could become a big factor for travel
Friday afternoon will be the worst time to make a weekend getaway, based on information collected by Waze, the navigation app. But on Monday, which falls within the long weekend, traffic is expected to be over 69% less congested that day in Los Angeles; 75% less congested n Chicago and 88% less in Atlanta.
But beware of traffic jams after the fireworks. Waze says traffic will be an average of three times higher between 10 p.m. and 11 p.m. across the country on Independence Day.