Be prepared for driving on Fourth of July weekend

| 6/29/2005

The Fourth of July is known for a few traditions – grilling, flag flying, parades, fireworks and … traffic accidents?

According to a 2004 study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, July 4th is the deadliest day on America’s roads, followed closely by July 3 in second place. July 2 is in ninth place.

Each year, an average of 161 people die in crashes on the holiday – that’s 12 people, or 40 percent more, than the average of any other day of the year, according to the report. Between 1986 and 2002, 2,743 people were killed on Independence Day.

Many states are taking extra precautions to help prevent fatalities on their highways. In Iowa – a state whose speed limit on rural interstates raises to 70 mph July 1 – officers are joining forces under the state’s Special Traffic Enforcement Program, referred to as STEP, to watch for impaired and speeding drivers.

Last year, STEP agencies reported 272 contacts with alcohol or drug-impaired drivers, 115 open container violations and 8,000 traffic citations or warnings, the Council Bluffs Daily Nonpareil reported.

“During the Fourth of July, holiday traffic is probably the most congested of all holidays, and we ask every motorist to slow down, buckle up and drive safely,” Col. Robert Garrison, Iowa State Patrol chief, told the Daily Nonpareil.

Other states, including Oregon, Alabama and Georgia, are also increasing the number of officers on the road, according to media reports.

Rick Craig, director of regulatory affairs for OOIDA, said one of the key ways for truckers to safe over the weekend is to wear their safety belts.

“For many busy truckers, holiday weekends are business as usual,” Craig said. “With the increased congestion during the holiday also comes an increase in impaired, fatigued and distracted motorists. No matter how safe and professional you may be, you don’t always know what the other guy is going to do. Be ready for the unexpected and make sure you are buckled up, just in case.”

The association is involved with the Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety Belt Partnership’s “Be Ready, Be Buckled” awareness and education campaign.

– By Aaron Ladage, staff writer