Startling predictions for Fourth of July safety

Independence Day weekend is all about family, fireworks, and food, and this year, America celebrates its 241st birthday. In addition to these Fourth of July staples, it’s also about travel, as relatives and friends will gather from near and far for cookouts, parades, and firework shows.

It’s the traveling element that has safety officials concerned. The National Safety Council predicted that as many as 54,000 people may be seriously injured on U.S. highways July 1-4. Officials’ worries stem from the number of deadly road-related accidents that took place last year. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, through the first six months of 2016, highway fatalities rose 8% compared to the same six-month period in 2014. That’s the largest year-over-year increase in traffic deaths in a half century.

“These numbers are a call to action,” NHTSA Secretary Anthony Foxx said. “Everyone with a responsibility for road safety – the federal, state and local governments, law enforcement, vehicle manufacturers, safety advocates and road users – needs to reassess our efforts to combat threats to safety.”

Of course, the grim assessment on traffic safety over the Fourth of July holiday doesn’t have to happen. In fact, officials at NSC are hoping Americans will rise up and prove that they have what it takes to keep themselves protected.

Deborah Hersman, NSC President and CEO, has called on the nation’s road users to defy the odds.

“The Council issues these estimates not to scare drivers but to empower them to make safe decisions behind the wheel,” Hersman explained. “We hope Americans will spend their holiday safely watching fireworks and celebrating with family rather than sitting in an emergency room.”

Preventable accidents among leading causes of death in US

The NSC is on a mission to reduce preventable deaths, which reached an all-time high in 2014. At 136,053 lives lost to accidents, that’s up 57% from 1992, putting preventable injuries as the fourth most common cause of death in the U.S. Only heart disease, cancer, and respiratory diseases account for more. Among individuals between 5 and 24 years of age, motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause.

There’s no big secret to being safe behind the wheel as you stick to the basics:

Always go the speed limit

It ought to go without saying, but you should always observe the speed limit. Not only will this help you avoid a ticket – the last thing anyone wants to get on Fourth of July weekend – but it’s directly related to the high number of deadly traffic accidents. For the last 10 years, roughly one-third of all highway fatalities were due to excessive speed, according to the NHTSA.

Wear your seat belt at all times

To paraphrase a common saying, buckling up isn’t just a good idea, but it’s also the law, as every state has legislation regarding seatbelt safety. Fortunately, more people use them now than in years past. Last year, almost 89% of Americans used their seat belts regularly, according to NHTSA’s analysis. That’s up sharply from 2000 when the compliance rate was roughly 71%.

Make full use of in-car safety features

An increasing number of cars have automatic safety features like brake assist and blind spot warning alerts. A recent study from the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety found that cars with automatic braking cut rear-end accident frequency by 40%. Translation: If you have it, use it.

Looking forward to a spectacular fireworks show? Make sure you’re up to date with how to enjoy fireworks safely.