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Dr. Debra Houry
Four tips for driving on the Fourth of July
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    The Fourth of July is one of the most heavily traveled holidays in Georgia, and as people embark on vacations, family picnics and parties, excitement often takes precedence over driving safety.  With Independence Day falling on a Wednesday this year, the celebration period could be extended, resulting in even more dangerous driving.  These four tips will help ensure a safe and happy Fourth of July.
     1. Do not drink and drive.
    You've probably heard it before, but with the number of alcohol-related deaths increasing 2.4 percent within the last year, people don't seem to be getting the message.  Drunk driving kills -- Alcohol was involved in 280 motor vehicle deaths over the Fourth of July holiday in 2005.   Sadly, all of these deaths could have been prevented if the driver had simply called a cab (it costs far less than a DUI penalty) or designated a sober driver.
     2. Buckle up.
    Wearing a seat belt is the single most effective way to reduce your risk of injury in a car crash.  In 2006, more than half of the motor vehicle occupants who were killed in a motor vehicle crash were unbuckled.  When used properly, seatbelts reduce the risk of fatal injury to front-seat passengers by 45 percent and the risk of moderate-to-critical injury by 50 percent.
     3. Watch your speed. 
    Speed contributed to 30 percent of all fatal crashes in 2005, according to statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and injuries in crashes involving speed were usually much worse than those that were obeying the speed limit.  Your Fourth of July celebration will still be going on when you get there, so remember to slow down.
     4. Give your car a check up.
    Before heading out of town for Independence Day, make sure car is ready for the trip - check your tire pressure, fluid levels, lights and cooling system.  Also make sure you've packed properly -- nothing should be packed in the driver's view or where it could fall into the driver's way.
    Stopping this Fourth of July from becoming another one for the record books is as simple as this.  Enjoy the fireworks this Independence Day; don't create them -- follow these four steps to a safer holiday.
    Dr. Debra Houry is an Assistant Professor in  the Department of Emergency Management at Emory University.
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