Independence Day is a prime time for celebration. It’s also a time for high alert. In 2014, the National Safety Council declared Fourth of July the deadliest American holiday. Between 1986 and 2002, July 4th weekend consistently ranked at the top of car crashes, totaling 2,743 deaths annually.
The factors of such high crash rates are what you might expect. Of the major U.S. holidays, the Fourth is one of the most notorious for alcohol abuse. Forty-one percent of deaths generally involve high blood alcohol concentrations, second only to New Year’s Eve. Drivers also must share the road with more people traveling over the long weekend. You’d be doing yourself a favor by remembering these safety tips.
There’s nothing wrong with enjoying a beer or a cocktail. There is something wrong when you’ve had several and make poor choices. It’s not worth the trouble, even if you’re not driving. Dumbing your sense makes you more susceptible to significant injury, whether it’s car-related or handling fireworks. That said, moderation is the key to a stress-free holiday. Manage your limits, or enlist a buddy to make sure you’re staying within the bounds of normal. You might also consider purchasing a certain amount of booze and sticking to it; once it’s gone, switch to seltzer.
Avoid rush hour traffic
Traffic spikes over the July 4th weekend. AAA estimates that 42 million drivers will travel more than 50 miles from home close to or on the Fourth. The Boston Globe asked for advice from experts at the traffic app Waze. Anticipate busy roads on the following dates and times:
- 3 to 5 p.m. Thursday, June 29
- 2 to 4 p.m. Friday, June 30
- 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, July 1
- 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sunday, July 2
- 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday, July 3
- 3 to 5 p.m. Tuesday, July 4
Another thing to remember: Driving fatigue accounts for at least 100,000 crashes per year. Packing and organizing for a road trip often deprives people of sleep, or at the least, alters their normal schedule. Consider taking 15-minute breaks at rest stops in between travel legs to recoup your energy.
Leave the car at home
Most towns and cities organize firework displays from public areas. As a result, people gather en mass. You’re better off taking public transit, an Uber, or alternate forms of transportation to get where you need to go. As noted by several people on TripAdvisor, specifically having to do with the fireworks display at the National Mall, it is “crazy crowded.” You can bet other parts of the country—from Illinois to California—will be too, as thousands of people gather at one central location. It goes without saying, driving anywhere near a mass crowd is a headache you don’t want to deal with.