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Roads, skies will be busy this fourth of July weekend

By Brigid Gaffikin, Bay City News Service

June 29, 2006

Sky-high gas prices don't appear to be stopping many Northern Californians from driving to holiday destinations this Fourth of July, usually the biggest travel weekend of the summer, AAA spokeswoman Cynthia Harris reported today.

Some 4.5 million Californians are expected to take to the roads and drive more than 50 miles this weekend, up 1.4 percent from the number of holiday motorists last year, according to the AAA.

Another 1.1 million Californians will set out by plane, train, bus or other means of travel, Harris reported.

The Fourth of July weekend is the busiest summer travel period each year; it is also the deadliest on the nation's highways, with alcohol a factor in the majority of last year's holiday highway deaths, according to the AAA.

On Tuesday the AAA is offering a "Tipsy Tow" program from 6 p.m. through 6 a.m. Wednesday in Northern California, Nevada and Utah. Both members and non-members will be towed at no cost for up to seven miles to the driver's home, according to the association.

The AAA's Tipsy Tow Program can be reached at (800) 222 4357.

With motorist safety in mind, the California Highway Patrol is increasing its presence on the roads this holiday weekend, with all available officers out on patrol, CHP Sgt. Les Bishop said.

Even though the official July Fourth holiday is on a Tuesday this year, the holiday weekend begins Friday for many people.

There are "more days that people have off and more days that people will be likely to drink and drive and we're going to do everything we can to get them off the roadway," Bishop said.

Over the Independence Day weekend in the Bay Area last year one person died and another 12 were injured in alcohol-related collisions, according to the CHP. From July 1 through July 4, 392 people were arrested on suspicion on driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

In a brand-new initiative this year the CHP and law enforcement agencies across the country will initiate a zero-tolerance zone Friday along all of Interstate Highway 80, some 3,233 miles from California to New Jersey, Bishop said.

The skies will also be busy this weekend, with more than 465 flights expected to depart San Francisco International Airport to destinations across the U.S. and internationally on Friday, according to airport spokesman Michael C. McCarron.

In San Jose, 181 flights, to both domestic and international destinations, are scheduled for Friday, Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International Airport spokesman Rich Dressler said.

Some 3 percent more people are flying out of San Jose this holiday weekend than last year, he said.

In Oakland, Friday is expected to be the busiest air travel day of the weekend, followed by Monday and then Wednesday, said Oakland International Airport spokeswoman Rosemary Barnes.

Anyone traveling by air from any of the Bay Area's three airports is advised to arrive at the airport 90 minutes before domestic flights' scheduled departure times and 2 hours before international departures.

Barnes said passengers should check the Web site of the Transportation Security Administration for information about what not to bring on flights, which will help save time while checking in and in security lines.

San Francisco will likely see large numbers of visitors arriving this weekend, according to Dan Goldes, spokesman for the San Francisco Convention and Visitors Bureau.

The city's waterfront activities are "a big draw, especially for regional visitors coming into the city for the day," he said.

San Francisco's July Fourth fireworks show begins at 9:30 p.m. Tuesday near Aquatic Park, at the waterside foot of Russian Hill.

Copyright © 2006 by Bay City News, Inc. -- Republication, Rebroadcast or any other Reuse without the express written consent of Bay City News, Inc. is prohibited.




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