With the cost of gasoline hovering at its highest point in history, there’s still no deterring motorists from hitting the road over the upcoming July 4th holiday. Nearly 48 million people are expected to travel at least 50 miles from home this weekend, according to AAA — a figure that nearly matches the pre-pandemic numbers of the summer of 2019.
Despite a midweek average gas price of $ 4.90 per gallon nationwide ($ 4.50 in Alabama), AAA says it expects the number of motorists in particular to reach new highs for the extended holiday period, which extends from Thursday, June 30 through Monday, July 4. “The biggest surprise – car travel – will set a new record despite historically high gas prices with 42 million people hitting the road,” the club advises.
The Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA) had not released anticipated Independence Day traffic safety statistics as of Tuesday. But last year, the agency investigated a total of 10 traffic fatalities over the July 4 holiday, with half of the victims reported not to have been wearing seat belts at the time of their accidents.
In Cullman County, sheriff’s deputies will be stepping up patrols over the long weekend, watching for drunk and distracted driving while maintaining a heightened presence around Smith Lake Park for Monday’s July 4th Fireworks and Music Festival.
“We will have extra patrols for the Fourth and throughout this coming weekend,” said sheriff Matt Gentry. “There will be extra deputies at the park, for the day of the event, and we’ll have our dive team out on the lake.” assisting boaters. A weekend like this one is kind of an all-hands-on-deck effort, with our main focus being to to ensure our citizens are safe and able to enjoy the Fourth with their families. ”
Gentry urged residents to use common sense and put safety first behind the wheel. “We would ask that people be safe: Don’t drink and drive; don’t text and drive. There is going to be a lot of traffic out on the wheel. roadways, and our goal is for everyone to stay safe so that they can enjoy the holiday and have a happy 4th of July weekend. ”
Later this week, the sheriff’s office will post at its Facebook page a traffic plan for access to, and departure from, the Smith Lake Park event. While many locals will head to the park to view the professionally-produced fireworks spectacle, others will take part in the DIY Independence Day tradition of setting off fireworks themselves.
The shooting of fireworks is legal throughout unincorporated Cullman County, as well as the City of Good Hope and, during holiday periods like the one this weekend, in Hanceville. But in the City of Cullman, both the retail sale and private shooting of pyrotechnics is prohibited.
If you do plan to put on your own backyard fireworks show this weekend, the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) offers the following tips to help ensure the safety of yourself and those nearby:
- Buy fireworks from a reputable seller and read all the warnings and safety instructions.
- Keep a hose, bucket of water, and fire extinguisher nearby in case of a fire.
- Young children should never handle fireworks, containers burning gel fuels, or sparklers.
- Only light one at a time, then move away. Do not stand over an ignited firework.
- Never light fireworks in a container because they can explode and send shrapnel flying.
- Do not launch fireworks at anyone and avoid horseplay near flammable items.
Avoid re-lighting or handling fireworks that malf
- unction. Soak fireworks in water after they are done burning and throw them away. Placing dry fireworks in a trash can is a fire hazard.
- Do not
- Nearly half (44%) of the firework-related deaths in 2020 involved impaired individuals, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
Benjamin Bullard can be reached by phone at 256-734-2131 ext. 234.