Marylanders looking to celebrate Independence Day locally this year are making a safe choice. According to a new study by ASecureLife, Maryland was rated as the ninth safest state in the country to observe the patriotic holiday, reporting fewer instances of firework and vehicle accidents occurring in the surrounding days.
Positive as this news is, Marylanders are not immune to injuries. The Fourth of July has gained a terrifying reputation for an uptick in alcohol consumption and deadly accidents. Any Marylander looking to participate in patriotic festivities this week should be familiar with the three most common hazards leading to life-threatening injuries this holiday to help prevent your celebration from ending in tragedy.
Deadly Holiday Roads
Holidays are traditionally a dangerous time for drivers on the road, but the Fourth of July can be particularly deadly. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported 601 fatalities from motor vehicle accidents in the days surrounding the holiday in 2017, a 23 percent increase in fatalities from the year before. A number of factors can lead to an increase in vehicle accidents over Fourth of July, the most popular include:
- Drunk Driving: Alcohol will be one of the most significant contributors to the increase in fatal traffic accidents this week. More than 39 percent of all traffic fatalities over the Fourth of July holiday involve alcohol-impaired drivers; this is the highest percentage of impaired driving accident among all major holidays. Drunk drivers make unsafe and risky decisions on the road, such as speeding, neglecting to use traffic signals, failing to yield, and making lane changes without looking.
- Distracted Driving: Drivers on the road this Fourth of July have more than double the number of distractions to endure than they would on a typical day. Increased passengers, road congestion, event traffic, and electronic devices are popular distractions leading to holiday accidents.
- Fatigued Driving: Motorists who leave early in the day, late at night, or after a long day of celebrating are susceptible to driving fatigue. Fatigue can lead to swerving, drifting, and falling asleep at the wheel, putting drivers at risk of hitting stationary objects on the road or surrounding cars.
- Aggressive Driving: Some motorists do not know how to slow down and be patient during holiday traffic. Aggressive drivers are known for pulling reckless maneuvers, but their chance of causing a serious accident skyrockets when more cars on the road.
Based on past trends, the National Safety Council predicts over 560 people may die and over 64,000 could be injured traveling on American roads this year, especially with the holiday falling in the middle of the week. No matter how far you are going this week, these essential safe driving tips can help reduce your families chance of an accident:
- Drive defensively. Stay alert to the cars around you and never assume who know what they will do.
- Buckle up when driving and making sure your passengers are secured.
- Don’t drive drunk. Drive sober, secure a sober driver, or find an alternative mode of transportation.
- Avoid fatigued and distracted driving. Take breaks to keep your mind on alert when on the road.
- Stay alert to drivers who may be impaired. If you see a driver putting others at risk, stay clear, exit the road safely, and call the local authorities to report the dangerous behavior.
- Know your vehicles safety systems and how they work.
- Fix any outstanding car maintenance before hitting the road. Do not take a chance with a broken vehicle as being on the side of the road in holiday traffic can be dangerous.
- Teen drivers are already at a higher risk for causing road accidents. Talk to your teens about their driving habits before letting them loose on the road this week.
Firework Dangers and Laws
Fireworks can be extremely dangerous for residents who set them off at their own home, especially when they are using illegal products. Maryland saw 17 firework-related incidents last year, according to a statement made this week by the State Fire Marshal. One accident involved a 21-year-old Maryland man who sustained catastrophic injuries to his hands after attempting to launch illegal fireworks out of a mortar- while holding it!
The National Fire Protection Association reports more than 18,500 house fires and 12,900 injuries are caused by firework-related accidents annually. Over 50 percent of the injuries are sustained to the head, face, ear, hands, and fingers, with sparklers (a popular kids product) responsible for a quarter of these instances.
Reducing your risk of firework injuries this Fourth of July is simple: go see a professional show. If you insist on setting off fireworks at your own party this week, these are the safety steps and firework laws the State Fire Marshal wants residents to know to avoid unnecessary injuries:
- Buy legal fireworks: Gold-labeled sparklers, novelty items (party poppers, snap pops, and snakes) and ground-based sparkler devices are the only legal fireworks sold commercially in Maryland. All other products are prohibited.
- Prepare for fires: Keep a bucket of water and a fire extinguisher close by to put out any fires before they get out of control.
- Do not relight: If a firework does not go off the first time you light it, do not try to light it again. Firework experts advise residents not to touch the firework in case it suddenly explodes. Leave the firework until the end of the night and then soak the firework from a safe distance to prevent it from going off unexpectedly.
- Stay sober: Do not allow drunk individuals to use fireworks. Alcohol can cloud someone’s judgment and their ability to determine how to safely use the products around others.
- Keep the kids away: Do not allow children to use fireworks, even ones that are marketed to kids. Sparklers are hot enough to melt gold, and will injure a child if they get too close.
- Do not cluster light: Only light one firework at a time to avoid fires. Lighting fireworks together can cause an unpredictable explosion that could lead to significant damage.
- Stay clear: Do not stand too close or hold fireworks when lighting. Move away quickly and keep all spectators back until the fireworks are completely extinguished.
In an additional effort to show residents how dangerous fireworks can be, multiple officials across Maryland have been demonstrating the devastating effects these explosives can have on the human body. Using hard-boiled eggs to mimic eyes and plastic prop hands, officials in Frederick County created this video to show how even small fireworks such as firecrackers and sparklers can cause permanent bodily damage.
Drowning is an entirely preventable tragedy that kills thousands of people every year. Between 2009 to 2018, there were 24,190 unintentional drownings in the United States, according to the safety advocate group, End Drowning Now. Among these fatalities:
- 3,913 were under the age of 4
- 2,046 were children ages of 5 to 12
- 2,7,43 were children ages of 13 to 19
- 15, 488 were adults
It doesn’t take long for someone to drown. Unlike on T.V., most individuals who are drowning quiet, giving off no verbal warning signs they are in distress
Drowning accidents are particularly high over the Fourth of July due to hot temperatures and an increase in recreational swimmers. Each body of water has unique dangers swimmers must prepare for to help prevent drowning accidents. The American Red Cross provides excellent water safety tips for each swimming location your family could be exploring:
Drowning incidents at backyard pool parties can happen quickly when adults are not watching children around the water. Parents should make sure their children are wearing swimming aides appropriate for their age. If their child is in the water, there should always be an adult watching. When the party has moved away from the pool, keep an eye out for children who may wander back. Gates help keep unsupervised children away from the water. If no gates are present, adults should be supervising their children closely until leaving the party. Never let older children swim alone in the pool. Even expert swimmers can be at risk for drowning.
Swimmers who enjoy a quick dip in the lake must watch out for different hazards than you would find in a pool. Lake water can sometimes be murky, with hidden hazards underneath. Never jump blindly into the water to avoid hitting unseen objects. Stay clear of moving boats and mark where you are in the water so boaters can see you as they go by. Avoid swimming in areas with plant life as swimmers have been known to become tangled. If you are swimming away from the beach, always use a life jacket. Swimmers can become tired when swimming out too far, with no life preserver or pool siding to grab for in an emergency.
The ocean is the most unpredictable body of water swimmers can venture in this summer. Riptides and waves can pose deadly conditions for swimmers when they do not use caution. Never swim alone in the ocean or at night. Always swim with a buddy and in designated swim areas where lifeguards are on duty. If you are caught in a rip current, swim parallel to the shore to avoid being pulled out to sea. Children should never swim out of reach from an adult to prevent tides and waves from pulling them under.
If you plan to swim this summer, do not swim drunk. Alcohol is a major contributor to drowning accidents in both adults and children. Parents who are drinking may lose sight of their children around water, or react too slowly in the case of an emergency. Adults who drink and swim also put themselves at a higher risk of drowning due to swim fatigue, impaired judgment, and loss of bodily control.
Have A Safe and Happy Independence Day!
As Baltimore City and Maryland safety advocates, our team at D’Amore Law wishes everyone a safe and happy Fourth of July. Play it safe this holiday and stay alert to all hazards you can prevent during your patriotic celebrations.
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