Enjoy Summer, but Be Safe!

Enjoy Summer, but Be Safe!

As we head into the July 4th holiday, many Americans are looking forward to traveling, having picnics, and gathering with friends and family. While we encourage everyone to have a good time, we urge them to be sensible about how they do it.

In case you haven’t heard them, we start with the depressing statistics. July 4th is the single deadliest day of the year for car accidents. July 3rd is high on the list as well. In fact, the holiday weekend as a whole is responsible for about 40-percent of car accident deaths for the entire year.

There are several factors contributing to this. The first is that many people travel, which puts more vehicles on the road. More than 40 million Americans travel out of town for the 4th, with about 35 million of them traveling via automobile.

However, it’s not just a problem of traffic volume. People driving in places they don’t know well often create more risks. Just about every Florida driver has seen someone, obviously lost or confused, cause an accident by trying to cut across several lanes of traffic when they miss a turn.

The mild weather most of the U.S. experiences in July encourages outdoor activities. While Christmas weather sometimes requires people to gather in their homes, the 4th of July holiday typically involves cooking out, heading to the beach, or going to watch fireworks.

Children are out of school during the 4th of July weekend, which puts more inexperienced drivers on the road. And even normally responsible teenage drivers become more dangerous when they’re in a car with several of their friends.

Finally, people drink a lot of alcohol on the 4th of July weekend. The Fourth is the biggest beer-drinking holiday of the year, with 68 million cases of beer sold over the holiday weekend. Again, warm weather probably adds to the temptation to down a few cold ones.

Fortunately, there are more ways available to prevent drinking and driving all the time. Ride-sharing services are now available in virtually all but rural areas. Within city cores, Pedicabs (basically bikes with an attached seatbox for passengers) offer a fun and practical alternative to driving and parking. Finally, more and more cities and metro areas, Tampa area included, are offering trolleys or buses for people who want to go several places to try beer and wine.

We hope everyone enjoys Uncle Sam’s birthday. Just be safe about it so it doesn’t get spoiled by a preventable accident.

Florida prides itself on its beaches, and for good reason. We have beautiful beaches stretching from Pensacola to Key West. People come from all over the world to enjoy them, and many locals flock to them in the summer to beat the heat. With that in mind, we have a few safety tips for the peak of this summer’s beach season:

Lightning: central Florida is often referred to as the lightning capital of the world. As Floridians, we get so used to summer thunderstorms that we can become careless.

The most common mistake people make is to assume a storm is too far away to pose a danger. In reality, lightning doesn’t just strike when it’s raining. Lightning strikes can occur miles from the center of the storm in places where rain and wind haven’t reached yet.

As a general rule, if you can hear thunder, then you’re close enough to be in danger. When there’s thunder or visible lightning, get out of the water. Salt water conducts electricity, creating a large shock zone around the site of a strike. Get off the beach too, because a person standing on the beach is just as vulnerable as someone standing on a golf course.

Indoors, the greatest danger from lightning comes from it traveling through land lines. Lightning can actually shoot through a wired line all the way to your ear. Stay off the land lines until the storm passes.

Drowning: see our recent blog on this subject, Learn the Signs of Swimmers in Distress as Summer Beach Season Approaches.

Rip Currents: when waves break, water gets pushed forward toward the beach. Gravity requires all that water to roll back to the ocean somehow. It does this by flowing backward through the surf via rip currents. Rip currents are typically visible from the beach as channels where waves aren’t breaking, or as lanes of disturbed or swirling water. More powerful waves produce stronger rip currents because they require more water to flow back to the ocean.

Rip currents don’t kill people. However, people who panic and try to swim against rip currents can drown after becoming exhausted. If you get caught in a rip current, don’t fight it. Stay calm and swim parallel to the beach until you get out of the current instead. Fortunately, rip currents are usually not very wide, so it doesn’t take long to get outside of them. You’ll know when you break free because the wave motion will start moving you toward shore again.

Sharks: this is one danger that gets exaggerated. Shark attacks are actually quite rare worldwide, and only a small number of those attacks are fatal. In the United States, there are only an average of 16 attacks per year, with one person dying every two years.

Bites often occur in Florida when swimmers accidentally step on or kick sharks in the surf. These types of bites often require stitches, but don’t put anyone in mortal danger.

The old canard about most shark bites occurred in three feet of water or less is misleading. This doesn’t mean sharks go to shallow water to feed on humans. Rather, shark bites happen there because that’s where most people swim. If most people swam in 20 feet of water or more, there’s no reason to think they’d be more safe.

Nonetheless, a few sensible precautions are still in order. First, never swim in areas where you see fish jumping or roiling the water. That can indicate schools of fish being chased by a larger predator. Second, get out of water if you actually see a shark. This will not always be the dorsal fin slicing the water; sharks are sometimes visible through waves, or when they jump themselves. Third, and obviously, don’t swim when you’re bleeding. Blood in water really can put sharks into a frenzy.

Enjoy your summer beach season and stay safe.

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