Celebrating our freedom with family, friends, great food and spectacular fireworks makes Independence Day one of the highlights of summer. However, with more people on the road and longer than average traveling distances, Independence Day has its risks when it comes to driving to and from your celebrations. Add the large amounts of alcohol consumed to the mix, and we see a much darker side to this beloved holiday.
During the Fourth of July holiday in 2017, 601 people died in motor vehicle traffic crashes. 39% (237) of those fatalities occurred in alcohol-impaired crashes. This is a 23% increase from 2016, during which 192 people were killed during the same holiday period. 60% of those who died in alcohol-impaired crashes were in a crash involving at least one driver or motorcyclist with a BAC of .15 or higher, which is almost twice the legal limit.
This iconic American holiday is also one of the deadliest holidays of the year due to drunk-driving crashes than any other day of the year. Before you head out this Fourth of July holiday, keep yourself, your loved ones and America’s roads safe by following these tips to minimize your risk of getting into a vehicle crash.
Take Preventative Measures
Even if you are the type of driver who keeps on top of having maintenance done on your vehicle regularly, you should still schedule a preventive maintenance checkup with a qualified mechanic before you head out on a long road trip. This will help ensure that your oil level, tire pressure, wiper blade, lights and coolant level are in good working order. And if you’ll be driving in a hot climate or towing a boat or trailer, you may need a motor oil with a high viscosity.
Get a good night’s sleep before doing any long-haul driving, and only drive when you are well rested. Plan out a driving schedule with another adult, giving each of you a few hours of driving, and then a few hours of rest. Be sure to also keep a good supply of water and high protein snacks to keep yourself hydrated, nourished and alert. Getting lots of rest and keeping energized will keep you from getting drowsy behind the wheel.
When traveling with children, take every precaution to keep them safe. This includes having children under the age of 13 ride in the back seat, as well as making sure that car seats and booster seats are properly installed and that any children riding in the vehicle are in the correct car seat, booster seat or seat belt that is appropriate for their size.
Lastly, make sure you have any necessary items you may need while driving in organized in one spot and in a place that is easy for you to reach. This means having your GPS loaded with your destination and your music already set up. Additionally, if you are traveling with children, bring along some items that will keep them entertained, so they don’t distract you while you’re driving. This includes things books and tablets loaded with games or movies.
Avoid Dangerous Driving Behaviors
Being distracted or impaired when driving is extremely dangerous and can even be fatal.
During long road trips, it’s tempting to find something to distract you when driving starts to feel tedious, but one moment of attention loss can cause a crash. When you’re the driver, you have the responsibility of maintaining your safety, as well as that of the passengers in your vehicle, which means it’s imperative for you to keep your eyes on the road and hands on the wheel. Phone calls, text messages, emails and social media can wait.
When it comes to driving impairment, a major cause of it during the Fourth of July holiday is alcohol. Fourth of July celebrations typically entail heavy alcohol consumption. In fact, more beer is sold on Independence Day than any other holiday, including St. Patrick’s Day and New Year’s Eve. During the 2016 Fourth of July holiday, about 68 million cases of beer were cracked open.
We’re free to celebrate but driving after having a few drinks should never be done. Even if you’re just buzzed or tipsy, alcohol impairs the perception, judgment and memory that a person needs in order to drive safely. Be responsible, and don’t get behind the wheel. Additionally, illegal and prescription drugs and over-the-counter medications can be as deadly as alcohol. Too many lives are lost in preventable traffic crashes involving drunk and drugged driving. Don’t put yourself in harm’s way by driving while you are impaired.
Make Arrangements for Transportation
If you plan on drinking over the Fourth of July holiday, consider making arrangements for transportation. Figure out who your designated driver will be if you’re traveling with a group. If you’re traveling solo, you may want to take a cab to your destination and also add the contact information of various taxi companies around your destination’s area to your cell phone, so that you can hire a cab to get back home.
When you get behind the wheel, you are responsible for the safety of yourself, those who ride you and those who you share the road with. Celebrate the Fourth of July holiday safely by taking some time to prepare before you travel and by following safe driving behaviors.