While Memorial Day is the traditional start to summer activities such as trips to the beach and pool, for many, the summer doesn’t seem to get into full swing until the 4th of July holiday. During the summer months, family and friends are far more willing to venture into the outdoors to enjoy the warm weather and summer sun. For parents with young children, it can be practically impossible to keep the little ones indoors once the weather turns.
In any case, as the 4th of July holiday approaches, all Pennsylvanians should take a moment and reflect on their upcoming plans for the holiday considering any safety risks. After all, this may be the first big trip your family takes this year or the first big event you have on your porch or deck. After a long winter, it is essential to ensure that wear and tear and other foreseeable safety risks will not transform your party, gathering, or vacation into an accident scene.
4th of July is Summer Road Trip Car, Truck, and Motorcycle Accidents Spike on 4th of July
For many people, the 4th of July weekend is a time to celebrate their freedom and hit the open road. While many people travel simply to reach a destination, others – including motorcyclists – are traveling for the journey itself. Riders in Pennsylvania may simply explore their favorite local roads in the Philadelphia area, or they may head to the more scenic, rural routes of western and central Pennsylvania such as the East Berlin/Michaux State Forest Loop, U.S. Route 30 from Chambersburg to Breezewood, or Route 340 from Lancaster to Downingtown.
Unfortunately, the warm summer weather and increased holiday traffic contribute to a precipitous spike in traffic accidents and fatal injuries. According to a 2016 Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) study, an average of 118.4 lives are lost in crashes on Independence Day each year. This number represents a spike of nearly 30 fatalities compared to the average day during this period. Independence Day is actually the deadliest day of the year for motorcycle riders.
The study found that the consumption of alcohol by motorists was a major contributor to this spike. On July 4th, consumption of alcohol that brings at least one drivers’ BAC to greater than the legal limit was present in Forty-seven percent of fatal crashes.
Deck, Porch and Balcony Collapses Can Cause Serious Injuries or Death
Fourth of July gatherings can often take place outdoors on a porch, deck or balcony. However, As was illustrated in several serious balcony collapses during 2016, improperly secured and improperly maintained balconies and porches can experience structural failures. When these structures fail, all occupants on the deck are at risk of serious injury or death. Homeowners should inspect their deck annually and make repairs and improvements as needed. For apartment tenants, it is important to put a building manager on notice if there appears to be problems with a deck or porch. However, ideally, the deck will also be inspected annually.
When a deck is not inspected routinely, a scenario similar to the 2016 Berkley balcony collapse that killed 6 young adults is more likely to occur. Here, the contractor who built the balcony “willfully disregarded” both plans and trade standards. A failure to install a water-tight membrane resulted in moisture permeating the structure and rotting it from the inside. Additional problems that can make a deck or porch collapse more likely include a failure to inspect or perform maintenance, the use of nails to affix the deck rather than screws or specialized fasteners, and other errors can increase the odds of a collapse or structural failure.
Defective Grills and Propane Tanks Can Cause Severe Burns and Other Injuries
If you are considering having a barbecue on the 4th of July, it is important to ensure that your grill is in proper working condition prior to using it. One key assessment an individual should make is regarding the rubber tubing, regulators, and seals that make up the plumbing of the grill. If these parts appear cracked or worn-out, there is a chance that gas could leak and lead to an unpredictable or violent ignition. Furthermore, it is also important to ensure that all tubing is clear from obstructions potentially due to rodents or other animals. If the flow of gas is obstructed, the risk of an explosion or other dangerous scenario increases significantly. The propane tank itself can explode if the tank is damaged or when it is stored in hot conditions, such as during transport in a car. Furthermore, individuals should always ensure that their propane tank is equipped with a regulator to prevent over-filling.
While gas grill and propane tank explosions and flare-ups are preventable, these accidents can cause severe burns, the loss of body part, and damage to one’s vision and hearing. Steps one can take to prevent grill accidents include:
- Always store tanks in an upright position away from sources of heat or direct sunlight.
- Always check for breaks or sharp bends in the tubing that could impede the flow of gas.
- Never use a gas grill in a living area or an area with insufficient ventilation.
- Never use store lighter fluid or other flammable materials in, on, or near the grill.
Taking simple steps like these can significantly reduce the odds of an injury due to a defective grill or improperly filled propane tank.
Swimming Pools, Wave Pools, Water Slides, and Other Bodies of Water are a Drowning Risk
4th of July and summer plans can also include a trip to a pool or a local waterpark. If you travel to the pool of another person or to a public pool, it is essential to first determine if the pool is guarded. Furthermore, it is also wise for parents to watch the lifeguards for their approach to watching the pool. Are the guards consistently alert and scanning? If so, this is generally a good sign. However, if lifeguards are visible sitting or lounging in plastic chairs, glancing down at mobile phones, or seem disengaged from their work then parents may wish to reconsider allowing their child to swim.
Aside from the risks presented by inattentive or improperly trained lifeguards, an array of other maintenance issues and other risks can also contribute to an injury. For instance, when one is at a waterpark and about to ride a water slide, it is important to know the ride rules and proper riding procedures. A rider who decides to travel down the slide head-first when the instructions call for a feet-first descent is at a much higher risk of suffering an injury as they slide. Due to their improper riding position they may be more likely to careen off the slide or strike certain support structures due to unexpected and excessive speed. Similarly, while a water park wave pool simulates the chaotic fun of a day at the beach watching for uneven surfaces, sudden drop-offs, drains, and other underwater dangers can protect against a potential accident.
What Steps You Should Take After Being Injured
If you, your child, or another loved one have suffered a serious injury due to Fourth of July or summertime fun, your first step should be seeking the medical attention needed to stabilize or treat the injury or injuries. After you have taken care of pressing medical concerns, the personal injury lawyers of The Reiff Law Firm may be able to help. Our personal injury attorneys can fight aggressively and strategically to secure the compensation an injury victim needs to pay for medical care and rehabilitation, replace lost wages and lost earning potential, and secure other compensation to “make one whole.” To schedule a free and confidential initial consultation, please call our Philadelphia-based law office at (215) 246-9000.