Safety Checkpoints Abound this Fourth of July Weekend on Land and Water

Auto and boat accident attorneys at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm remind the public that the Fourth of July weekend, though an exciting and fun time to celebrate, is also one of the deadliest holidays of the year. In Illinois alone there will be more than 100 roadside safety checks along with over 500 saturation patrols on public lakes, rivers and roads.

On the Fourth last year, in 2012, Conservation Police – the officers that patrol public waterways – issued over 450 citations to boaters. This year will undoubtedly be no different, with impaired boaters and passengers failing to wear life jackets.

It is not always negligent boaters, however, that cause the worst crashes. Last year in New York, on the Long Island Sound, a quick change in the weather turned deadly for numerous passengers who were watching fireworks from a yacht. At least 27 people were aboard a 34-foot yacht in Seawanhaka Yacht Club in Oyster Bay when, at about 10 p.m., clouds unleashed hail, rain and violent waves.

The boat took a sharp left turn and capsized, sending the passengers into the water. Nearby boaters were able to save 15 of the passengers, and the Coast Guard rescued eight more by midnight. Three others, however died in the water, and two others were rushed to the hospital.

Boaters are encouraged to use the safe boating techniques highlighted on the U.S. Coast Guard’s Resource Center. According to the Coast Guard, drink for drink, boaters become impaired much more quickly than those staying on land. Reasons for this include engine noise, water spray, motion from waves, wind, and coordination and reaction time. To avoid a BUI, the Guard recommends you bring along plenty of snacks and non-alcoholic beverages.

In addition to increased waterway surveillance, nearly 400 Safety Belt Enforcement Zones and more than 380 nighttime seat belt saturation patrols will be out this weekend in Illinois. More than $750,000 in federal traffic safety funds will be used in the state for additional police patrols.

Over the past five years, more than 3,500 people have been injured in Independence Day crashes in Illinois. In those crashes, 55 people were killed and 62% of those fatalities involved at least one driver who had been drinking.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety recently determined that, at least between the years between 2004 and 2008, July 4th was the deadliest day of the year for roadway crashes. During a typical day in the United States, about 114 people die in traffic-related crashes; on the Fourth, an average of 148 people died in motor vehicle crashes.

This is due to number of factors, such as more people on the road in general, traveling long distances in unfamiliar environments, and of course, the presence of alcohol. Independence Day has the second highest rate of alcohol-related crashes, at over 40% (the first is New Year’s Day AT 49%).

Somewhat surprisingly, August is actually the deadliest month of the year for American motorists, according to data by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). One person dies in a roadway crash every 16 minutes in August. Officials speculate that this is due to the spike in travel plans during the month, with families visiting relatives and taking day trips to the water.

Drunk driving, particularly on major holidays when families are out together, is a major threat to public safety, and law enforcement agencies continue to work to get intoxicated drivers and boaters off public travel ways. Boat and auto accident attorneys at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm wish everyone a safe, happy, and celebratory Fourth of July.

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