Celebrating the 4th of July calls for barbecues, fireworks, long weekends and road trips to see family and friends. And as well all know, alcohol is usually intertwined into the mix of family, food and fun during this patriotic celebration. While enjoying a few alcoholic beverages in a safe location with friends is acceptable, getting behind the wheel is not. Unfortunately, the Fourth of July weekend is statistically the most dangerous holiday to be driving on the road.

According to the new AAA Foundation analysis of data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, between 2000 and 2009, the 4th of July weekend tallied more deaths due to traffic accidents than any other day of the year. Also, it is shown that Independence Day is the second deadliest day for drunk driving deaths, after New Year’s Day. In that same ten year time period, an average of 40% of car accident fatalities were due to a driver with a blood alcohol concentration over the legal limit.

Fourth of July weekend car accident fatalities can be reduced by taking specific precautions and by adhering to these safe driving tips:

  1. First and foremost, do NOT drive while intoxicated. Secure a designated driver before the holiday festivities even begin. Talk to a trustworthy family member or friend who will not drink a single drop of alcohol throughout the course of the festivities. If your designated driver falls through, call a cab to get a ride.
  2. Get plenty of sleep. The two main causes of car accidents occurring over the 4th of July holiday are drunk driving and drowsiness. Drivers party too hard and then are not able to stay awake behind the wheel. An easy solution to this problem is 1. Pull over on the side of the road if you feel drowsiness setting in or 2. If you feel too tired to drive, simply don’t. Stay at a friend’s house. Getting home at a certain time is not worth risking your family or friend’s life.
  3. Be alert and observant. Be aware of your surroundings while on the road and look out for drivers who could be a threat to others. If you spot a vehicle swerving or switching lanes erratically, keep a safe following distance and don’t try to pass them. Have a passenger in your vehicle report the reckless driver by calling a non-emergency police station. Report the vehicle’s license plate number.
  4. Buckle Up! Wearing your seatbelt is something you should always practice, so the 4th of July weekend is no exception! Make sure your entire vehicle is safely bucked up to increase your chances of safety in the event of a car accident.
  5. Be flexible Try not to make “set in stone” plans for the holiday weekend. Allow yourself extra time for traveling to and from the lake, fireworks shows, barbeques and other parties. Flexibility in your plans means you can stay with a friend or family member if your designated driver doesn’t follow through. Stay the night with a friend and everyone will be sober and ready to safely hit the road the next day!

By following these safety tips, hopefully the roads will be less populated with reckless drivers, ensuring that you and your family will have a safe Fourth of July holiday.