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Lawmen, high fuel prices greet North Carolina holiday travelers

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(The Center Square) – Lawmen this week joined in launching the annual Operation Firecracker Booze It & Lose It campaign and holiday drivers with it got a rise in fuel prices.

Consider the July Fourth holiday well underway, and something of a 10-day extravaganza.

With motorists sure to be concerned with safe driving in a state fifth in the nation raking in $35.6 billion annually on tourism, they’ll also be mindful at the pumps. Regular unleaded gas hopped up an average of 5 cents from a week ago to $3.30 and remains roughly the same difference it’s been most of the year at 20 cents below the national average ($3.50), according to the American Automobile Association analysis.

Only 14 states are lower as of Thursday morning. A month ago, it sold for $3.33 a gallon. A year ago, it was $3.27.

By heat map whether fuel or temperatures, the hottest is toward the beaches. Fifteen counties toward the coast are averaging between $3.34 and $3.90.

Conversely, 13 counties in the foothills or mountains are between $3.12 and $3.23.

Of the three major metros, Raleigh and Wake County ($3.36) is a tick higher than Charlotte and Mecklenburg County ($3.34) and Greensboro and Guilford County ($3.33).

Brunswick County ($3.23) at the South Carolina border on the Atlantic Ocean is a tad more favorable than the Outer Banks ($3.24) and much lower than the Crystal Coast ($3.36).

Diesel fuel is averaging $3.77 a gallon, barely less than a week ago and 7 cents more economical than a month ago. It is 6 cents higher than same last year. Twenty-seven states were lower on Thursday morning.

North Carolina this year taxes gasoline at 40.5 cents per gallon, up 2 cents from last year and the seventh-highest in the country. States higher are Pennsylvania (61 cents); California (54); Washington (49); and Illinois, Maryland and New Jersey (all 42). Diesel tax in North Carolina (40 cents per gallon) is 10th behind only Pennsylvania (78); Indiana (55); Washington, Illinois, New Jersey and Connecticut (49 each); Ohio (47); Maryland (43); and California (41).

Among 14 major metro areas, unleaded gas is the least expensive in Hickory-Lenoir-Morganton in the foothills, and New Bern in eastern plains, each at $3.20. Most expensive is Durham-Chapel Hill ($3.37) following closely by Raleigh ($3.36).

Diesel is the most consumer-friendly ($3.66) in Hickory-Lenoir-Morganton.

In a state with the ninth-largest population of 10.8 million, roughly 8 million vehicle registrations are combustion engines, either gas or diesel. Total zero-emission vehicles registered is about 80,000.

The Booze It & Lose It campaign is from Murphy to Manteo, an effort through the Governor’s Highway Safety Program. From Monday through July 7, public outreach and increased law enforcement is used to discourage drunk driving. There are more checkpoints.

Last calendar year, 388 people died in North Carolina crashes involving alcohol. On the Fourth of July weekend, there were four fatalities and 162 crashes involving alcohol.

AAA estimates 70.9 million will drive 50 miles or more from home between Saturday and July 7.

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