By Jarrett Renshaw
NEW YORK (Reuters) - With gasoline costing the least since 2005, U.S. motorists will hit the road this upcoming July 4 holiday weekend in record numbers, according to the nation's largest motoring group.
AAA projects 36.3 million people will drive 50 miles (80 km) or more from home during the holiday period, the third consecutive year of record-breaking forecasts. That is up 1.2 percent from last year, continuing what is expected to be a historic summer driving season.
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Despite recent seasonal increases, gasoline prices remain well below the levels of recent years. The national average price for a gallon of regular gasoline is $2.31, which is 47 cents less than one year ago. AAA expects most U.S. drivers will pay the lowest Independence Day gas prices since 2005.
“Spurred by the lowest gas prices since 2005, more people than ever are planning to travel this Independence Day weekend,” said Marshall Doney, AAA president and CEO. "“We are well on our way for 2016 to be a record-breaking year for summertime travel."
Including airplanes and trains, AAA projects nearly 43 million Americans will travel this Independence Day weekend, the highest July 4 travel volume on record and five million more travelers than over Memorial Day weekend. The holiday travel period is defined as Thursday, June 30 to Monday, July 4.
Americans used an average of 9.72 million barrels of gasoline a day in the four weeks ending June 17, the highest level recorded since the Energy Information Administration started collecting weekly consumption data in 1991.
The most recent data from the U.S. Department of Transportation shows the U.S. road renaissance, spurred in part by the crude oil rout and lower unemployment, remains strong.
U.S. road travel rose 2.6 percent in April, compared with a year ago, according to data released last week by the U.S. Department of Transportation.
The April figures mark the 26th consecutive month of year-over-year increases in vehicle miles traveled, according to DOT data, reflecting the surge in U.S. driving activity fueled by low pump prices.
Driving in the United States is closely watched since the country accounts for about 10 percent of global gasoline demand.
(Reporting by Jarrett Renshaw; Editing by Dan Grebler)