Fourth of July is deadliest holiday weekend

The 2014 fireworks show lights up the sky at the harbor in Atlantic Highlands, N.J., Friday, July 4, 2014. The National Safety Council says Independence Day is the most dangerous holiday.
(Mike DeSocio / AP)
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The Fourth of July is the most dangerous American holiday weekend of the year, experts say.

The National Safety Council estimated that there would be 385 deaths and 41,200 injuries -- including car crashes, swimming incidents and fireworks accidents -- this Fourth of July. Last year, there were eight deaths and 11,400 injuries from fireworks mishaps alone.

Research finds that the majority of deaths on and around Independence Day are from car accidents.


Between 2008 and 2012, July 4 had an average of 127 deaths in crashes each year, according to data collected by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. New Year’s Day followed with an average of 122 deaths annually.

July 5 also ranks up there, with an average of 110 deaths annually.

Independence Day has historically been the deadliest day on the road for Americans, according to the Insurance Institute. Between 1986 and 2002, July 4 was continuously the day with the most car crash deaths each year, totaling 2,743 deaths.

The day with the second highest number of deaths for that period -- 2,534 -- was July 3.

“The big summer holiday puts a lot of drivers on the road, which increases the likelihood of serious crashes,” Russ Rader, spokesman for the institute, said. “And there’s riskier driving, too. People are going to barbecues and fireworks displays that sometimes involve drinking.”

Alcohol is a factor in a greater number of crash deaths on both the Fourth of July and New Year’s Day. Forty-one percent of the deaths on the Fourth and 51% on Jan. 1 involved high blood alcohol concentrations, according to the institute. This compares with 33% on Dec. 25.

Jeffrey Spring, spokesman for the Automobile Club of Southern California, said he thinks that the heat and sun on Independence Day adds to the problem. Dehydration, he said, intensifies the effect of alcohol, and even of simple drowsiness.

Although this year fatal incidents included a deadly fire in Philadelphia, shootings in Chicago, Indianapolis and Houston and a boat crash in Florida, such episodes aren’t necessarily part of the Fourth of July danger trend.

Fireworks mishaps raise the danger bar, according to a report by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

The most common fireworks injuries were to hands and fingers -- 36% -- but 22% of injuries were to heads, faces and ears. Sixteen percent were eye injuries.

But according to the safety commission, emergency room visits for bicycle crashes, swimming incidents, exercise equipment accidents and basketball injuries topped those for fireworks injuries during the week of July 1 to July 7 last year.

On Saturday morning in Manhattan Beach, a man was attacked by a shark -- hardly part of past trends, but an example of what can happen by simply spending a day at the beach.

“It’s a celebration more than just a weekend off, so people tend to celebrate more,” Spring said. “They tend to try to cram a lot into these weekends and that’s where they get into trouble.”


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