Posted: Jun 26, 2014 8:00 AM
The Fourth of July is always a fun way to begin the summer season. The smell of burgers fills the air, kids swim and play and parents let down their guard for a moment. But it can also be a day of accidents. From sparklers to drowning to impaired driving, parents need to take safety into consideration.
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The Fourth of July is the perfect time to catch up with old friends and family, soak up the nice weather by the pool or the ocean and enjoy a spectacular display of fireworks when the sun finally sets after a long day of play. For many Americans, celebrating Independence Day marks the official start to the summer. But for many other Americans, it can turn into one of the most dangerous days of the year. The fact that alcohol use tends to be high on July 4 increases the risk of injury for both children and adults. It’s important to know the risks, as well as how to play it safe.

  • According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), nearly 200 people per day go to the emergency room with fireworks-related injuries on and during the month around July 4. New data from the CPSC also shows that 60 percent of all fireworks-related injuries occur around July 4. While many people consider fireworks harmless fun, including sparklers (did you know that sparklers can reach temperatures of 2000 degrees?), misuse of fireworks can result in severe burns, blindness and even death.
  • Crowded pools and beaches make it difficult to keep an eye on little swimmers, or even seasoned swimmers who might tire for a variety of reasons. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), drowning ranks fifth among the leading causes of unintentional death in the U.S. The CDC states that “about 1 in 5 of the people who die from drowning are children,” and “for every child who dies from drowning, another five receive emergency department care for non-fatal submersion injuries.” 
  • The Fourth of July is one of the deadliest days on the road. According to NHTSA, more than 700 people were killed in alcohol related traffic accidents on the Fourth of July holidays between 2007-2011. These deaths accounted for 40 percent of all motor vehicle traffic fatalities during that five-year period.

Safe sparkles

Leave the fireworks to the professionals this year and try a few family-friendly alternatives, instead.

  • Neon glow sticks, necklaces and bracelets. You can decorate your kids head to toe with neon glow items to light up the night during your celebration. Kids love them, and they are perfectly safe.
  • Light up bouncy balls add a nice touch when the sun sets. Buy them in bulk and get some energy out while lighting up the sky in red, white and blue.
  • Red, white and blue silly string is always a crowd pleaser. A complete mess, of course, but certain to bring a few smiles.
  • Watch a professional fireworks show. If there isn’t a show scheduled in your area, you are sure to find one on TV.

Safe swimming

Even when kids are strong swimmers, crowded pool parties can lead to unsafe choices. I once saved a very strong swimmer from drowning after she decided to put a toddler-sized tube around her and somehow flipped over — unable to right herself. Follow these swim safety tips to keep a close eye on your little (or big) swimmers.

  • Keep all babies, toddlers, preschoolers and new swimmers at arm’s length. Kids can go under in a heartbeat. While some kids might have the instinct to try to push up, others will panic and sink. Stay close.
  • Use a 1:1 ratio at pool and beach parties. If you have a child in the water, one adult in the family should supervise that child (no matter the age of the child).
  • Use a buddy system. Have siblings or close friends buddy up and check in with each other.
  • Air-filled tubes, noodles and other swimming toys are not the same as life jackets. In fact, rough and tumble pool play in overcrowded environments can lead to misuse of these items and increase the risk of drowning. Do not rely on pool toys for new or unskilled swimmers.

Safe driving

It’s been said before and will be said again (and again). If you have even one drink, do not drive your car. The only way to guarantee safe driving on your end is to make safe choices, and that means no drinking and driving.

  • Designate a driver and a backup plan (you know, in case the designated driver decides to have a drink) before you even leave the house.
  • Watch for impaired drivers on the road. July 4 is a great day to take it slow on the roads and leave ample space between cars.
  • Put down your phone. Put a passenger in charge of the GPS and remain focused on the road.
  • Ensure that your children are strapped into the correct seats for their age and weight. Check the Governors Highway Safety Association to view the requirements in your state.

More on family safety

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The danger of button batteries
Pool safety tips for a safe and fun summer