KIRTLAND AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. (AFNS) --
The Fourth of July, a time for America to commemorate the passage of the Declaration of Independence, is often celebrated with parades, concerts, firework shows, family road trips, barbecues and parties where participants toast to the nation.
Sadly, these holiday festivities can lead to potentially deadly consequences on the roads, especially when alcohol is thrown into the mix. According to the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration, 812 people died in motor vehicle crashes involving drunk drivers during the July 4th holiday period from 2014-2018.
“Many of our service members and their families will take to the roads in hopes of celebrating our nation’s birthday someplace special,” said Michael Ballard, Air Force Safety Center chief of occupational safety. “I urge leadership at all levels to take time to engage with Airmen and Guardians about having a plan to reduce the risks associated with their holiday weekend activities.”
Ballard emphasized safety as a top priority while participating in this year’s celebrations and the use of sound risk management to help prevent injuries and mishaps.
Motor vehicles are the primary mode of transportation for most and often an indispensable part of life. However, they are not risk free. Making a plan ahead of time helps identify and mitigate possible dangers motorists may encounter, like knowing the roads, being aware of the weather, having a designated driver or using public transportation if drinking, understanding the effects of medication while driving, and counteracting fatigue by pulling over at a rest area to rest or stopping for the night.
“I ask everyone to take the extra time to prepare if you are going to travel, get your vehicle serviced and keep an emergency kit with you,” said Michael Eckert, AFSEC Traffic Safety and Outreach Branch chief. “Leave early, plan ahead for heavy traffic and make sure all travelers are properly buckled up.”
The 4th of July is unofficially considered the mid-part of summer. Schools are out and more young drivers will be on the roadways. According to the National Safety Council, vehicle accidents are the number one cause of preventable deaths for teenagers. Parents should educate themselves and their young drivers about the risks. One way is the NSC’s “DriveItHome” safety campaign geared to help their children learn safe driving habits this summer and share lessons learned to help others stay safe today and into the future.
Arriving safely at the holiday weekend destination is only part of the equation. The warm summer weather and long days allow people to enjoy many outdoor activities, each with their own risks.
When planning to barbecue, remember to keep raw foods separated to avoid cross-contamination and bacteria. Cook meats at proper temperatures, check them with a food thermometer, and refrigerate promptly if not eating right away. Keep cold foods cold, don’t let them sit in the sun. After handling food, people should always wash their hands with soap and warm water. Following these helpful hints can prevent illness.
To reduce the risk of burns, lighter fluid and flames should be kept out of reach from children and the grill should never be left unattended.
Public fireworks shows are recommended, but when choosing to purchase legal fireworks for private display be sure to follow safety guidelines. Start with the instructions on the package before lighting them, never let children light them and monitor children constantly. Keep a charged water hose or bucket of water nearby, never relight a “dud” firework and light one firework at a time moving away from it once lit. Wear safety gear, such as safety glasses and gloves, and someone 18 or older should oversee the use of fireworks.
“Enjoy celebrating our nation's Independence Day and the freedoms we all fight for, but do it safely because without you the mission suffers,” Ballard said. “We want you all safely back home and at work.”
For additional information and resources, visit the Air Force Safety Center summer safety page at https://www.safety.af.mil/Divisions/Occupational-Safety-Division/Summer-Safety/.