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Think twice before taking to risky roadways

Last Modified: June 29, 2024

Safety & Prevention

Family preparing for vacation

The 4th of July is a time of celebration, filled with fireworks, barbeques and gatherings with family and friends. This festive holiday also symbolizes liberty and independence. For many, driving represents a form of personal autonomy, providing the ability to travel, explore and connect with loved ones at will. With this freedom comes the responsibility of ensuring safety on the road for ourselves and others, especially during holidays when there is an influx of traffic and driving hazards. Lisa Hollister, administrative nursing director, Trauma Services, Parkview Health and Matt Daughtry, Chief of Police and Public Safety, Parkview Health, provide valuable insights on staying safe while driving this Independence Day.

Why is holiday driving riskier?

According to a prediction released by the American Automobile Association (AAA), the AAA Newsroom projects that 70.9 million travelers will journey 50 miles or more from home over the Independence Day holiday period. The surge in road trips during the 4th of July and the corresponding weekend contributes to yearly record-breaking traffic, and further heightens the risk of vehicular crashes and fatalities. Current data from the World Health Organization (WHO) approximates that 1.19 million people globally die each year as a result of road traffic crashes, with traffic-related injuries as the leading cause of death for children and young adults aged 5–29 years.

Common cause of car wrecks

These startling figures represent the immensely preventable issue of risky driving behavior, the leading cause of vehicular car crashes. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, a sector of the U.S. Department of Transportation, reports that approximately 32% of all traffic crash fatalities in the United States involve drunk drivers with BACs of .08 g/dL or higher. Impaired driving, whether due to alcohol, drugs or fatigue, severely hampers a driver's reaction time and decision-making capabilities, further elevating the risk of crashes. Additionally, the NHTSA indicates that distractions, such as texting or using a phone while driving, contribute significantly to an increased rate of crashes.

Tips for safe holiday driving

Whether you're traveling across multiple states or simply running to the grocery store to grab a forgotten item, planning ahead, minimizing distractions and abstaining from impaired driving are vital to the safety of yourself, other drivers and pedestrians. Here are some fundamental tips to ensure your safety on the road:

Preparing for your trip

  • Allow ample time to reach your destination and resist the urge to speed to avoid breaking traffic laws and ensure safety.

  • Avoid peak travel times. INRIX, a provider of transportation data and insights, suggests the worst times to travel by car before and on July 4th are between 2 PM and 7 PM.

  • Pack an emergency kit filled with essentials like water, snacks, a first aid kit, phone charger and tools for minor car repairs.

  • Assign navigation and snack duties to passengers to minimize driver distractions‚Äč.

  • Pre-set your destinations and plan bathroom or food breaks in your GPS before you leave.

  • Ensure your driving entertainment, such as audiobooks, podcasts or music playlists, is downloaded in advance and lasts the duration of your trip. Avoid skipping songs or changing media.

Minimizing distractions

  • Put your phone away. Place it in the glove compartment box or out of sight and turn it off. Even talking on the phone hands-free can be a distraction, as you're not cognitively present to avoid a crash.

  • Use a phone mount. If you're using your mobile device for navigation, consider purchasing a phone mount that allows you to view the screen without creating a hazard. Place your phone in do not disturb mode to prevent incoming calls and texts.

  • Be a defensive driver. It's safer to assume other drivers may be distracted and not operating with due care. Stay situationally aware and anticipate the movements of other drivers.

  • Maintain a safe distance. Remember to drive three to five seconds ahead and allow three car lengths between you and the vehicle in front of you.

Alternatives to driving while impaired

  • Don't drink and drive. Plan not to drink or designate a sober driver ahead of time. If that's not possible, consider your options for public transportation, such as shuttle buses offered at events or ridesharing services.

  • Utilize sober ride programs. Indiana Criminal Justice Institute (ICJI) created the Sober Ride Indiana program to give would-be impaired drivers a safe way home around high-risk holidays and events. Visit their webpage here to obtain a free ride credit.

  • Stay the night. Make plans with your family or friends ahead of time to stay safe and not risk your or others' lives.

Final thoughts

Driving during the 4th of July period requires extra caution and awareness to navigate the bustling roads safely. Celebrate the holiday responsibly and enjoy the freedom of knowing you're contributing to a safer road environment. Share these tips with friends and family to spread the message of safe driving this Independence Day.


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