The Holiday is Fun but You need to be Safe
July 4 is usually a time to visit friends and family for barbecues, parades and fireworks but it also means increased traffic and highway accidents. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), July 4 is also the deadliest day of the year for motorists, just beating out January 1.
IIHS statistics indicate that an average of 118 motorists, pedestrians and passengers die each year on July 4, which is an astounding 28 more than on any other day of the year except for New Years Day. Motorcyclists fared just as poorly with an average of 28 fatalities on July 4 as compared to just over 12 on any other day.
Factors that cause this day to be so deadly include the high incidence of alcohol and drugs as well as distractions from cell phone and other in-car activities that take your attention away from the act of driving.
So, to be safe this upcoming and for all future holidays, here are 4 tips on how to stay safe.
Getting an early start is always a good idea since the roads will be congested. Inevitably, there is an accident or a motorist breaks down so that your arrival time will be delayed. This is to be expected and you and your family need to be prepared.
Plan ahead and allow additional time to arrive
You can plan ahead if your trip is to be several hours long. Have the kids play games in the car or encourage them to read. Go online and plan your route for rest stops and restaurants. Breaking up the monotony of driving and the frustration of being caught in congested traffic will make the day more endurable and keep you fresh. Your passenger can keep whomever you are visiting informed of your progress and estimated time of arrival.
This means completely sober so avoid having that one drink before setting out for the barbecue or visit with the in-laws. One drink does not elevate your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level to 0.08%, the point where driving becomes illegal, but an alcoholic drink can make you drowsy and even slightly buzzed that could affect judgment and slow your reaction time to a road hazard. Driving while impaired does mean that any amount of alcohol can put you under the influence, regardless of your BAC.
Drive 100% sober
That July 4 seems to bring out the drinkers is not surprising since this day is at the height of summer and is a 3-day weekend. About 47% of those killed in traffic-related accidents on July 4 holidays had alcohol as a factor. Driving impaired also refers to the use of medications that can cause drowsiness. If you start to feel tired or your attention begins to waver, stop at the next rest stop or restaurant and consider having your passenger drive the rest of the way.
Motorcyclists are taught to assume that other motorists do not see them and to drive defensively at all times. This is sound advice for all motorists and especially on July 4. A holiday brings out drunk drivers at all hours of the day and night so assume that there are motorists who have been drinking on the roadway regardless of the time.
Also, distracted driving has become as much a menace as drunk driving. In congested traffic especially, motorists are tempted to start texting, reading their emails or going online on their smartphones. Drive like a motorcyclist by assuming that other drivers do not see you and will suddenly enter your lane of traffic, go through red lights or enter a roadway without looking.
Driving defensively also means avoiding road rage. Just because you got cut-off does not mean taking revenge on that motorist and placing you and your family in jeopardy. Further, there are motorists who will retaliate if you feel you must teach that person a lesson.
Driving means keeping all of your attention on this task. Of course, talking, listening to the radio or music tapes keeps you awake or your mind from wandering, but always keep your eyes on the road and alert to any sudden hazards.
Stay focused and off the phone
Having your smartphone with you is a necessity but that does mean you have to look at it for any reason while driving. Most if not all states now make it illegal to text and drive and many others have legislation prohibiting any use of a hand-held smartphone.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that there are about 660,000 motorists using their smartphones at any one time, regardless of the time of day. The average user takes 5 seconds to text, read an email or otherwise use their phone. At 60 miles per hour, you will travel more than the length of a football field, more than enough time to miss a road hazard.
Before you start driving, give your phone to your passenger and refrain from any use. If your car has a bluetooth application where you can drive and hands-free, have your passenger talk to the person while you are driving if you must answer it or keep the conversation short.
July 4 can be a safe and enjoyable holiday if you use common-sense and use these 4 tips. Don’t be a statistic and arrive alive and safe.