Every year, 4th of July celebrations turn into tragedies for far too many people. Increased traffic and impaired and fatigued drivers are major contributors to the high numbers of traffic fatalities over most holiday weekends, and July 4th is no exception. Although the numbers have been improving in recent years due to increased police presence on the roads over the holiday, it is still a dangerous time to drive. We want our clients and neighbors to stay safe this summer, so we offer these tips for arriving alive this 4th of July holiday.

Be Smart, Stay Safe

Safe traveling often comes down to common sense, but there is something about a holiday weekend that seems to cause many drivers to abandon common sense, which puts everyone at risk. Take the time to remind yourself of ways to stay safe as you travel Young Girl in the Back of a Packed Car Before Vacationto that barbeque, pool party, or fireworks display this July. We offer these safety tips:

  • Check out your car. If you are traveling any distance—even if it’s only a few hours—check all the fluids in your car and top off anything that’s low. Also, check the tire pressure and tread to make sure your tires are in good shape. If you are heading out on a longer road trip, take your car in for a complete tune-up first. Not only will a well-maintained car be safer to drive, you will get better gas mileage and engine performance.
  • Wear your seat belt. Not surprisingly, wearing a seat belt decreases your chance of a serious injury or death in a car crash by half. You can’t rely on other drivers being sober and safe, so you must protect yourself by always buckling up—and insisting that your passengers do as well.
  • Don’t drink and drive. Everyone knows this, right? Then why do people still do it—especially on holiday weekends? If you are headed to a cookout and know you will have a beer or two, find a designated driver who will not drink, or plan on taking a cab home. It is never worth risking your life and the lives of others by driving after you’ve been drinking, even if you don’t feel drunk.
  • Be careful on rural roadways. More accidents happen on rural roads than on interstate highways, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Given that many people are heading to backyard barbecues and lake houses over the 4th of July holiday, rural roads could pose a danger. Don’t speed, don’t pass unless it’s safe to do so, and keep a safe following distance—even if the driver in front of you is driving too slowly for your liking.
  • Remain alert. After watching late-night fireworks and sitting in traffic trying to get out of the parking lot, you will be tired. Open a window, play the radio, and ask your passengers to keep talking so that you can stay alert for the ride home. Even if it will keep you up after you are home, you may want to have a caffeinated drink an hour or so before leaving the park to help you stay awake for the drive home.
  • Load cargo carefully. Hauling a lot of weight, piling stuff on top, or towing a trailer all change the way a vehicle will handle and stop, so make sure you don’t overload your car or SUV with recreational equipment or picnic supplies and that any external luggage is well-secured.
  • Don’t drive too fast for conditions. Again, it’s common sense to know you shouldn’t driver faster than the posted speed limit, but given the conditions we often find on holiday weekends, it is sometimes necessary to drive below the speed limit to be safe. Heavy traffic, poor weather conditions, other careless and possibly drunk drivers, and poor visibility are all signals that you should slow down. Besides, what’s the rush? It’s a holiday!
  • Put away the cell phone. You’re on vacation, your friends and family are with you—why would you need to check your phone behind the wheel? Emails, texts, and Facebook posts can all wait until you have stopped driving. Driver distraction is becoming a leading cause of fatal accidents. Don’t add to the statistics!

The most important tip we can give you is to remember that the lives of the people in your car are infinitely more important than enjoying a drink, arriving at a particular time, or checking your phone for a text.

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James Roswold
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James Roswold is a Kansas & Missouri personal injury, workers comp, and medical malpractice attorney.