North Carolina highways are expected to be unusually busy over the Independence Day holiday despite relatively high gas prices.

More than a million North Carolinians are expected to hit the road for the holiday, the highest number in more than a decade, according to AAA Carolinas.

North Carolina gas prices, averaging $3.56 a gallon, are 16 cents higher than over the July 4th holiday last year, with prices this year the highest since 2008. Asheville’s average price is $3.64, tied with Durham for the highest in the state.

Gas prices are holding steady in part because of unrest in Iraq, AAA spokesman Tom Crosby said. Prices typically start to fall in the summer.

“We haven’t seen the decline in prices that we normally have in the summer,” Crosby said, noting concerns about instability in Iraq are “propping the prices up.”

Motorists traveling to a number of surrounding states will find cheaper gas. Prices are averaging $3.38 in South Carolina, $3.58 in Georgia and $3.61 in Florida. Virginia’s average is $3.48, while Tennessee prices are averaging $3.46.

The Fourth of July holiday typically is dangerous on the roads. Traffic deaths soared last year over the holiday weekend, with 18 deaths, the highest in eight years in North Carolina. In seven of those deaths, alcohol was involved.

The N.C. Highway Patrol began its “Booze It & Lose It: Operation Firecracker” campaign targeting drunken drivers June 27 and will continue it through Sunday.

“It’s a year-round issue, but this is the traditional big summer holiday,” Asheville-based trooper Gene Williamson said. “A lot of people are traveling on the roads, and a lot of people choose to drink and drive. We’re trying to focus on the impaired drivers and take them off the road. We just ask people if they are going to consume alcohol to do it responsibly. Don’t get behind the wheel or operate a boat.”

According to AAA, the number of North Carolinians traveling more than 50 miles from home is expected to be 1,175,000, with 1,015,000 choosing to drive — up from 988,000 last year.

Airplane trips are estimated at 90,400. Other types of travel — bus, rail, watercraft — are estimated at 70,000.

North Carolina will suspend most construction projects along interstates, secondary and primary routes from 4 p.m. Thursday to 9 a.m. Monday.