Fearing the Fourth

A backyard barbecue sounds perfect for my July 4. I hope your holiday and mine are safe and fun. If you’re traveling, this is a weekend to take special care.

July 4 is at or near the top among all holidays for traffic fatalities. Planning by the Maryland State Police and Georgia State Patrol for this holiday weekend is typical of law enforcement agencies nationwide. Troopers from each of the MSP’s 22 barracks are operating saturation patrols during the weekend, and 75 extra troopers are deployed on the state’s roads conducting enforcement for speeders, aggressive or drunken drivers, and performing traffic control at fireworks displays. Georgia’s DOT Crash Reporting Unit and the Georgia State Patrol estimated 18 traffic deaths, 999 injuries, and 2,072 crashes will be recorded in Georgia during this holiday weekend, which would be worse than 2009’s 15 traffic deaths during the same period.

Col. Bill Hitchens, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Safety, said officers “will be concentrating their efforts to locate impaired drivers on our roads as well as speeders and motorists who fail to buckle up. Anytime a holiday period falls on a weekend, there is an increased chance of encountering an alcohol-impaired driver as you travel,” he added. "Minimize distractions in your vehicle and be alert should you be forced to take evasive action to avoid a collision."

Thanks to NFPA, we know more fires are recorded on July 4 than on any other day of the year. Now a SAMHSA study proves daily underage drinking-related visits to hospital emergency departments are 87 percent higher during this holiday weekend. The report estimates during an average day in July, 502 hospital emergency department visits involve underage alcohol use. During the long Fourth of July weekend, however, such visits rise to 938 per day.

"Underage drinking is not a harmless rite of passage. It has far-reaching consequences. In addition to emergency department visits, injuries, arrests and embarrassment, 5,000 deaths in people under age 21 are linked to alcohol each year," SAMHSA Administrator Pamela Hyde said.

The study was based on SAMHSA's 2008 Drug Alert Warning Network (DAWN) report, which utilizes a public health surveillance system monitoring drug-related hospital emergency department visits reported throughout the United States.

The U.S. Department of Transportation offers tips for safe travel at http://safetravel.dot.gov/.

Posted by Jerry Laws on Jul 02, 2010