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The Most Dangerous Day of the Year

July 4, 2021
5 minutes
In the News

The Deadliest Day of the Year

For many living in the US, Independence Day is a day of celebration - a day to spend with family and friends. A day of BBQs, fireworks, and expressions of freedom. 

But it’s also the most dangerous day of the year. 

According to the Pew Research Center

“45,000 people visit U.S. hospital emergency rooms for treatment of injuries on July 4 and 5 – nearly 91,000 in total, by far the highest daily numbers in the entire year.”

What accounts for this surge in injuries?

The top two causes are fireworks and alcohol. 

Accidents involving alcohol and/or fireworks account for the majority of deaths and injuries that occur over the 4th of July holiday but other injuries are also more common. 

Fireworks-Related Accidents

The most common injuries (not surprisingly) are caused by fireworks. In fact, fireworks-related accidents surge for several weeks surrounding the holiday. 

Graphs reflecting an increase in fireworks-related injuries and ER visits around July 4th from 2000-2018

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s (CPSC) 2019 fireworks annual report,

“An estimated 7,300 fireworks-related injuries (or 73 percent of the total estimated fireworks-related injuries in 2019) were treated in U.S. hospital emergency departments during the 1-month special study period between June 21, 2019 and July 21, 2019 (95 percent confidence interval 4,700-9,900).” 

While it may not surprise you to learn that fireworks cause so many injuries (and deaths), what may surprise you is that many of these accidents are caused by what has been labeled “safe and sane” fireworks. 

In fact, hand-held child-friendly fireworks, like the much-beloved sparklers, account for a huge number of serious burn injuries each year

And while accidents involving fireworks do account for the largest number of injuries, they aren’t the only type of injuries that occur in higher numbers on the 4th. 

Driving-Related Accidents

There are more car accidents, primarily alcohol-related accidents, on the 4th of July than any other holiday - including New year’s Eve!

According to a 2017 report by the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration), July has higher rates of alcohol-related accidents than any other month. 

And while this graph from the National Safety Commission shows that there are fewer fatalities caused by drunk driving in recent years than in the past, 4th of July still trends much higher than average. 

Graph showing that far more alcohol-impaired driving fatalities occurred on the July 4th holiday from 1980-2020

Other Common Injuries

Fireworks and traffic accidents aren’t the only causes of the increase in injuries on this holiday. 

Other common causes include:

Grilling Accidents 

Grilling safety is such a big concern, the CDC has an entire page dedicated to it. Burns, cuts, and improperly cooked food account for the majority of these types of injuries. 

Food Poisoning

Food-borne illnesses are common around the holidays. And with BBQs and potlucks taking center stage on Independence Day, food from multiple households is often left out all day. Combined with the July heat, this contributes to high numbers of food-borne illnesses on this particular day. 

Drownings/Water & Boating Accidents

Pools, lakes, beaches, water parks - water and the 4th tend to go hand-in-hand, especially in the warmer areas of the US. Combined with increased alcohol consumption, drownings and near-drownings occur far more frequently on this day than others.

According to the CPSC

“The July 4th holiday has traditionally seen an increase in the number of pool and spa drownings, compared to an average week during the rest of the summer.” 

Heat Stroke/Dehydration/Sunburn

Heat & sun injuries are also common on the 4th of July as Americans gather outdoors to celebrate. Hot July temperatures and all the fun-in-the-sun activities lead to the increased rates of these injuries. 

Lasting Impact of 4th of July Injuries

We wanted to learn more about the impact of these holiday-related injuries on individuals and families. So, we reached out to our Evidation Members. 

We asked a series of questions to find out how many of them had been injured (or had a family member injured) on 4th of July as well as to determine the level of impact the injury had and any lasting effects.

Here’s what we learned. 

Only 5% of respondents said that they (or someone in their immediate family) had been injured on the 4th of July. 

Of those over 6% required hospitalization, 35% were treated in the ER, and over 25% were treated in an urgent care. 

Graph displaying the breakdown of the treatment required for July 4th injuries, showing that many individuals sought ER or urgent care treatment

52% of those injured changed their habits as a result of the injury and over 25% said that the injury significantly impacted family members or loved ones. 

What does this tell us?

That the majority of those who were injured were hurt badly enough to require emergency medical attention AND badly enough to inspire lasting changes to their holiday traditions. 

Independence Day Safety Tips

Injuries may be more common on the 4th of July, but you can reduce the risk by celebrating safely!

Nothing is less fun than spending a holiday in the ER. A few simple precautions can help ensure a safe, fun day for you and your family. 

Here are some tips to help keep you and your loved ones safe while celebrating! 

  1. Watch a public fireworks show! Many cities, and even small towns, offer fireworks displays. This is a great way to enjoy the show without personal risk. 
  2. If you do use personal fireworks, do so before consuming alcoholic beverages, keep a water supply within reach, avoid lighting fireworks while in hand, and supervise children and animals closely. 
  3. Stay hydrated! Make sure to drink plenty of water. And remember, if you celebrate with alcohol as well, double your water intake!
  4. Use a designated driver! Don’t get behind the wheel after drinking. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying a cocktail or a beer while celebrating, but be responsible!
  5. Use sun protection. Dress appropriately for the weather and use sunscreen if you will be outdoors.
  6. If you’ll be near water, drink responsibly and supervise children carefully! 
  7. Keep an eye on food left out and make sure anything you eat (or give children to eat) is fully cooked and kept at safe temperatures.

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