Getting around on the 4th: What to know to stay safe while celebrating

Electronic boards display messages above cars on highways
Hennepin County Sheriff Dawanna Witt says extra patrols will be present on roadways as well as waterways on the Fourth of July this year.
Courtesy of the Minnesota Department of Transportation

The Fourth of July is a day full of fun and celebration for many. But safety concerns and high traffic — whether on land, water and air — are especially present this year.

Flying this holiday weekend or in the coming month? July is forecasted to be the busiest month of the year at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.

Airline passengers passing through
Airline passengers passing through to find their gates at Minneapolis–Saint Paul International Airport on Nov. 9.
Kerem Yücel | MPR News

Officials say average daily departures will peak this month at 473, but the airport will continue to be busy through the summer travel season. Departures for July and August could surpass record levels set in 2019. Airport officials say one of the reasons for the surge is new flights to Europe.

Construction around Terminal 1 could cause delays for travelers while driving to and from the airport, so officials recommend allowing extra time when dropping off or picking up passengers.

Boating and water safety

If water is more your thing, know the Hennepin County Sheriff's Office will increase patrols (both on water and land) to prepare for the July 4th holiday.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources says the Fourth of July weekend is one of the busiest times of year when swimmers, boaters and paddlers get out on the water. The department is advising people to take extra precautions if they plan to boat or swim in rivers due to high and fast-moving water.

People who kayak, paddle board or boat along the rivers should wear life jackets and stay away from the shore.

According to the sheriff’s office, 2024 has already surpassed all of 2023 in drownings.

“If you’re looking to swim, check ahead of time to see if there are any restrictions, but go to a place where it’s designated swimming areas,” said Lisa Dugan, the recreation safety outreach coordinator for the DNR.

“Know that if you’re swimming in a river that there can be drop offs, there is fast moving water and to always be safe and put your life jacket on anytime you go into the water,” Dugan said.

Docked boats at sunrise.
Boats at Sportsman's Lodge near Baudette.
John Enger | MPR News

The sheriff’s office also says boating while intoxicated laws are the same as impaired driving laws.

Officials say if boaters are over the legal limit of .08 blood alcohol content, they will be arrested, could face potential jail time and have their driver’s license revoked.

Police Chief Brian O’Hara says that the department will not tolerate illegal activities or activities that risk the safety of people.

“If anyone threatens the safety or property of others, we will act. We will make arrests and we will work with our Hennepin County partners to book those responsible into jail,” O’Hara said.

Last year, more than a dozen people were arrested in Minneapolis on the Fourth, including a teenager who allegedly fired fireworks at a Minneapolis police car.

With high water levels on both the county rivers and lakes, the sheriff’s office is also reminding boaters to check signs at boat launches for “no wake” restrictions.

Motorcycle and road safety

Hennepin County Sheriff Dawanna Witt said extra patrols will be present on roadways as well as waterways throughout the day.

“Make sure that there is no drinking and boating [or] drinking and driving as those extra deputies and officers that are out there are going to be aggressively addressing those types of issues."

Witt says extra patrols are not only for appearing safe but to actually promote and keep people safe.

Pumping gas
AAA reports the average price of a gallon of gas Thursday was about $3.37 a gallon, going up two cents overnight.
Sean Gallup | Getty Images 2010

Drivers should also keep an eye on rising gas prices.

AAA reports the average price of a gallon of gas Thursday was about $3.37 a gallon, going up two cents overnight. That’s up about a nickel a gallon over the past week.

But it’s still about 7 cents lower than prices on the Fourth of July last year.

Minnesota remains well below the national average and is currently sitting at roughly $3.52 a gallon.

The average gas price in Minnesota, North Dakota and Wisconsin are all within a penny of one another on Thursday. Gas in Iowa is $3.31 a gallon. South Dakota is just under $3.24 a gallon.