buckle up phone down fourth of julyThe Fourth of July is historically one of the deadliest days of the year on American roads. The number of traffic fatalities spikes, killing hundreds of people on their way to and from celebrations with family and friends. While this is in large part due to drunk drivers, they’re not the only factor. The roads are inundated with travelers, some of whom are riding without seat belts, using cell phones, or ignoring other traffic safety laws. Stay safe this holiday with these July 4th travel safety tips.

Buckle Up Every Passenger for Every Ride

The Fourth of July is a great time to relax with family and friends, but safety should still be a priority. Even if you only plan a short ride to a friend or neighbor’s house, you should follow all Maryland seat belt laws and child passenger safety laws. Buckle up every passenger in your car for every ride, no matter how familiar the path or short the duration. More than half of car crashes happen within five miles of a person’s home.

Put Your Phone Away Before You Drive

Unfortunately, many people text and drive, even when they know they shouldn’t. Do you? If so, you should stop. Distracted driving is a killer. Not only is using a handheld cell phone while driving extraordinarily dangerous, it’s illegal in the state of Maryland. If you need to call or text about your travel plans, do so before you hit the road. After buckling up, putting your phone away should be the next thing you do every time you get in the car.

Set Up Hands-Free Calling and Navigation

If you’re taking a long trip and there is a chance you will need to take a call while driving, set up hands-free calling. Enable the voice options on your phone or GPS to ensure you can also navigate without picking up your phone and looking at it. It’s still best to limit all phone use while driving, because even when used hands-free, your phone is a significant cognitive distraction.

Follow All Traffic Signals

It should go without saying that you should heed all traffic signs and follow the rules of the road during all your travels. Keep an eye out for new signals during the Fourth of July, especially in places where increased traffic has led to temporary lowering of speed limits, detours, and new pedestrian crossings.

Watch For Pedestrians

Keep an eye out for pedestrians, especially at night. These folks may have chosen to walk to and from their Fourth of July parties in order to avoid driving drunk. Alcohol is implicated in at least half of pedestrian crashes and, in the majority of cases, it’s the pedestrian who has been drinking. So, even if you have the right of way as a driver, you may need to yield unexpectedly. If you’re a pedestrian on July 4th, take extra precautions, especially when walking at night or near traffic.

Never Drive Drowsy

Did you know that driving while drowsy can be as bad as driving drunk? Being alert and able to quickly respond to dangers on the road requires that you are well-rested. If you have a long road trip planned, share the driving responsibilities with someone else or plan to stop for the night somewhere. Keep in mind that alcohol, certain medications, and undiagnosed sleep disorders (such as sleep apnea) may also leave you feeling too tired to drive.