Tips for Staying Safe, Sober on July 4

How do you celebrate July 4? The traditional ways in which we mark Independence Day are a minefield not only for those in recovery, but also for those on the roadways. Data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration on traffic accidents and fatalities on July 4, 2012, show just how many lives are turned upside down or destroyed on the holiday due to drunken revelers getting behind the wheel.

  • Forty-four percent of the 2012 traffic fatalities that occurred on July 4 involved a drunk driver. Overall, for the year 2012, drunk driving accounted for close to one-third of all fatalities.
  • For younger drivers, this number is even higher: 46 percent of young drivers killed in car accidents on July 4 had a blood-alcohol level of .08 percent or higher.
  • From 2011 to 2012, the number of fatalities increased by 4.6 percent.
  • The situation becomes even more alarming in the evenings. In 2012, from 9 p.m. to midnight, 59 percent of the fatal accidents involved a drunk driver.

Stay Safe, Stay Sober

These statistics are a real eye-opener. Take a second look at your holiday celebrations and traditions and explore ways to keep the best aspects of these fun times while making them as safe as possible. Here are some guidelines:

  • Planning ahead for dealing with holidays is critical for anyone in recovery from substance abuse. People hosting parties or attending them should plan for contingencies and figure out how to avoid potentially dangerous situations. This may mean you’ll be spending time and energy researching where to see the fireworks, and then selecting a place to watch them that is more private or far away from the crowds. It may mean finding a hotel, motel, bed and breakfast or other option for staying put after watching fireworks. Or, it might mean that instead of fireworks this year, you watch fireflies or build a bonfire (check with your local fire department before doing so) right at home.
  • Consider doing more family friendly activities, shifting the focus from the barbeque get-together (where the availability of alcohol and the focus on drinking is likely) to community-oriented things, such as attending a parade or festival. Look for opportunities to go places or do things that engage the kids in hands-on learning or playing. Many museums or historical societies plan wonderful Independence Day celebrations.
  • Consider shifting the focus for your family by finding an opportunity to give back on this day. Volunteering can become a fun and meaningful family tradition. If you aren’t sure about signing up for a structured volunteer opportunity, how about creating one? A litter pickup on a favorite hiking trail might be a fabulous holiday tradition.
  • Being open to handling family traditions in a new way might cause some waves. Some families have trouble making changes and the last thing you want is an argument on a holiday. Again, plan ahead and discuss your concerns and your suggestions with those with whom you celebrate. Make it a joint effort.
  • Take it easy. Don’t put pressure on yourself to make the holiday into something of Disney proportions. Relax, enjoy an unstructured day off, and maybe do as little as watch the clouds roll by—this might be a perfect way to celebrate the day. Don’t let the media or others make you feel pressured into celebrating in any particular way. If you focus on safety and prioritize your recovery, you’re guaranteed to have a great day.
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