From California to Maine, people will soon be gathering in parks and backyards to celebrate Independence Day. For many, the holiday isn’t complete without a few beers, a festive cocktail, or a couple of glasses of wine. And while alcohol and July 4th celebrations may go together like mom and apple pie, there are some activities to avoid if you plan to drink.
Hitting the Highway
The Fourth of July is the third most popular drinking day of the year—and one of the busiest holidays for road trips. This year AAA predicts 39.7 million Americans will travel more than 50 miles by car to get to their July 4th destination.
The combo of more alcohol and more people on the road makes for deadly results. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that 780 people died in DUI crashes over the July 4th holiday between 2012 and 2016. And the danger increases as the day goes on—fatal crashes involving drunk drivers are three times higher at night than during the day.
If you plan to celebrate America’s birthday with a red, white, and blue cocktail, leave the driving to a sober friend or make plans to use a ride-sharing service or public transportation.
Whether you prefer sparklers or Washington, D.C.-worthy displays, fireworks on July 4th are a national tradition. But many revelers find themselves on the wrong end of a bottle rocket by the end of the night. Fireworks cause an estimated $32 million in property damage and more than 11,000 trips to the ER each year—with nearly 70% of injures occurring between mid-June and mid-July.
Alcohol slows reactions and impairs good judgment, upping the risk of an accident or injury when handling fireworks. If you are in charge of your family or neighborhood show, wait to toast your work until after the finale.
Too Much Time in the Sun
Picnics, barbeques, time on the lake, and outdoor activities with family and friends are common ways to celebrate July 4th. But combining too much sun with alcohol can see your holiday end early on the couch or in the ER instead of watching fireworks.
Drinking intensifies dehydration from heat and sweating and can create a vicious cycle of trying to quench thirst with another beer or glass of Chardonnay. Impaired judgment can also make you forget to reapply sunscreen, and alcohol’s depressant effect can easily turn that stint of sunbathing into a sunburn-producing nap.
Mild effects of excessive sun exposure include headache and fatigue; severe effects include fainting, confusion, and heat stroke. Your best bet if you’ll be outdoors this Independence Day: limit your alcohol intake and alternate drinks with plenty of water.
Boating and Motorized Water Sports
Holiday drunk driving isn’t just a problem on pavement. The American Boating Association notes that July 4th is one of the busiest days for motorized water recreation and boating under the influence (BUI).
In addition to the typical dangers of mixing alcohol with operating a motor vehicle, the impact of alcohol on a boater can intensify with “boater’s hypnosis” that results from motion, vibration, engine noise, sun, and wind. The result: boat operators can become more impaired more quickly then they might on land.
And unlike their landlubber counterparts, drunk boating passengers can be just as much at risk. An intoxicated passenger is more likely to slip in the boat or fall overboard—leading to serious injury or drowning.
Heading out onto the water? Keep the beer cooler closed if you are at the wheel and drink in moderation if you are along for the ride.
Check out this Summer Drinking & DUIs Resource Center for more tools and resources to safely beat the heat.