Stay safe for the Fourth: Plan ahead to avoid holiday tragedies

Memorial Day weekend traffic on I-75/I-85 southbound in Atlanta is shown on Friday, May 27, 2022. Expect similar jams for the Independence Day holiday weekend, experts say. (Natrice Miller / natrice.miller@ajc.com)

Credit: Natrice Miller / Natrice.Miller@ajc.com

Combined ShapeCaption
Memorial Day weekend traffic on I-75/I-85 southbound in Atlanta is shown on Friday, May 27, 2022. Expect similar jams for the Independence Day holiday weekend, experts say. (Natrice Miller / natrice.miller@ajc.com)

Credit: Natrice Miller / Natrice.Miller@ajc.com

Cookouts, fireworks and making a splash are on the agenda for many families for the Fourth of July weekend.

But the summer holiday often proves to be a deadly one on Georgia’s roads and waterways. Last year, at least 16 people died in vehicle crashes and two others drowned, according to officials.

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Despite high gas prices, an estimated 1.5 million Georgians will hit the roads for the long weekend, according to AAA.

“Celebrating holidays should be fun, as well as safe,” said Col. Christopher C. Wright, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Safety. “We urge all motorists to practice safe driving habits by following posted speed limits, using appropriate safety restraints, not driving impaired, paying attention to road conditions and not using cellphones while driving.”

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Friday marks the fourth anniversary of the Georgia hands-free law. Since the law’s inception, troopers and officers have issued more than 84,000 citations to those using their phones or other devices while driving.

Those in metro Atlanta can expect to see an increase in traffic as early as Thursday afternoon, according to Doug Turnbull, a member of WSB radio’s Triple Team Traffic coverage. The first areas to see backups will likely be I-75 southbound in Henry County and I-75 between Marietta and Cartersville, Turnbull said.

With airlines being forced to cancel and change flights due to staffing issues, more people may opt to drive this year, Turnbull said.

“The best advice we can offer is to fake out the crowds,” Turnbull said. “Leave early in the morning or later in the evening to catch the most open roads possible.”

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Combined ShapeCaption
Watch a Lasershow Spectacular followed by a patriotic fireworks finale from Friday, July 1-Tuesday, July 5 at Stone Mountain Park.

Credit: From stonemountainpark.com

Watch a Lasershow Spectacular followed by a patriotic fireworks finale from Friday, July 1-Tuesday, July 5 at Stone Mountain Park.

Credit: From stonemountainpark.com

Combined ShapeCaption
Watch a Lasershow Spectacular followed by a patriotic fireworks finale from Friday, July 1-Tuesday, July 5 at Stone Mountain Park.

Credit: From stonemountainpark.com

Credit: From stonemountainpark.com

Travelers should pack their patience, too.

“Everyone stuck around them on the roads has the same goal,” Turnbull said. “Slow and steady wins the race. Driving close to the speed limit and avoiding harsh hits on the brakes and gas really help that precious fuel mileage, too.”

For those staying closer to home, police and firefighters advise letting professionals handle patriotic pyrotechnics and remember safety precautions around water, including wearing life jackets.

Every year, an estimated 11,000 people are treated in U.S. emergency rooms for injuries from fireworks, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Around the Fourth of July, about 200 people are injured each day by fireworks. Sparklers, or hand-held fireworks, are responsible for about 25% of the injuries, the commission reported.

Meanwhile, never leave a grill unattended. Grilling causes approximately 10,000 home fires a year, according to the Red Cross.


Here are ways to stay safe while enjoying the holiday

Driving safety tips

1. Before heading out, make sure any needed vehicle repairs have been made and check the air pressure in the tires, along with fluids and brakes. Have a first-aid kit and any other emergency supplies ready.

2. Obey the speed limit. When you speed, you reduce the amount of time needed to avoid a traffic crash.

3. Designate a driver, or call a taxi, ride-sharing service, friend or family member to help you get home safely if you drink alcohol.

4. Make sure everyone in the vehicle wears a seat belt and that children are in appropriate safety seats.

Fireworks safety tips

1. Read the directions carefully, and inspect the device for any defects.

2. Keep a bucket of water, a garden hose and a fire extinguisher close by.

3. Ignite fireworks outdoors in an open area away from buildings, vehicles, vegetation or any other combustible material.

Swimming safety tips

1. Provide close and constant attention to children in or near water.

2. Use the buddy system. Even experienced swimmers should not swim alone.

3. Children, inexperienced swimmers and boaters should wear life jackets.

4. Swim in an area with a lifeguard when possible.

5. Don’t dive. Enter the water feet first.

Sources: Red Cross, CDC, law enforcement agencies