Memorial Day, is the unofficial start of summer and the first summer weekend. As most are aware, Memorial Day also marks the first time many seasonal businesses open or the first time that many of them will be busy and bustling with bustling with people from Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and beyond. Memorial Day is certainly a time for excitement, and perhaps especially so this year in light of the polar vortex and seemingly daily snow storms. However, it is important that we do not allow our common sense to be carried away on a wave of enthusiasm. Be aware and be careful whether it’s on the roads, at the beach, at a fair or amusement park, or even cooking on the grill.
Memorial Day Weekend is a Dangerous Time to be on NJ and PA Highways
AAA has estimated that more than 36 million Americans will take to the roadways this weekend and travel more than 50 miles from their homes. If their estimates prove to be accurate, this will be the busiest Memorial Day travel season since 2007 and second busiest since 2000. Unfortunately, all those cars on the roads mean more accidents; when alcohol is factored in, that means more accidents still. In fact, the Nation Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that Memorial Day is one of 6 times a year when fatalities for vehicle occupants spikes.
In both 2011 and 2012 over the Memorial Day weekend, there were 12 deaths on Pennsylvania roadways and more than 800 accidents in each year. However, it is likely that those deaths could have been reduced. Of those 12 deaths in 2012, 9 were not wearing a seatbelt. That is 75% of those killed failed to wear a seatbelt – hardly the type of odds I would recommend relying on. In New Jersey, in both 2012 and 2013, 4 people were killed in highway accidents over the weekend.
Alcohol is almost certainly a contributing factor in many of these crashes. In New Jersey, there were 83 DUI arrests in 2013 and 117 in 2012. Pennsylvania reported 404 DUI arrests in 2012. While the state and local police attempt to catch all drunk drivers, some undoubtedly slip through the increased patrols and DUI checkpoints putting your family at risk. If you are going to drive on memorial day weekend, then please do not drink. And if you are going to be on the roads, say wary and attempt to avoid driving late at night when the risk of an accident due to a drunk driver is further increased.
Beware of the Amusement Park Trainee
Many amusement parks open for the first time or begin regular hours on Memorial Day weekend. However, like the first day of any job, the employees are still getting comfortable and familiarizing themselves with their new job. Even if this isn’t the employees first year at the park, they may be a bit rusty since they have not regularly performed their job duties since the close of last season. If you decide to visit a waterpark or theme park this weekend be sure to be alert to your surroundings. Further, if something makes you uncomfortable – whether it is the condition or the ride, the manner it is being operated, or another unsafe condition – stay away and report it to park management. Your actions could not only save you from a potentially catastrophic injury but also others in the park.
Emphasize Safety When on a Boat
In 2013, there were 202 boat accidents in New Jersey and the surrounding area. Tragically those accidents caused the deaths of 24 people. As Memorial Day weekend is the time when many take their boat out of dry dock or other storage, it is also the time of year boating accidents become more common. Before you head out on the water, be sure to have a safety plan should something go wrong. Your safety plan should address a number of key points for survival including:
- Have a float plan – A float plan is fairly simple in concept, but it can be invaluable. A float plan generally includes details of your vessel and voyage. Your boats appearance, the number of people on board, your destination, and expected time of arrival are all essential elements of a thorough float plan. A float plan can help a search and rescue team pinpoint the areas that you are most likely to be in should something go wrong.
- Check the weather – While it is important to check the weather before you head out, it is equally important that you check throughout the day. A GPS and reliable means of communication can be essential should weather change unexpectedly.
- Wear your life jacket – If you fall overboard and you were not wearing your life jacket, it’s now too late to put it on. Therefore it is important that life jackets are worn at all times while on a vessel.
- Stay sober – Like operating a car, operating a boat is a responsibility. Alcohol dulls our senses and makes mistakes and miscalculation more likely. In fact, alcohol was the number 1 contributing factor in recreational boating accidents.
- Have a checklist –Maintaining an up-to-date checklist and running through it can help you remember the above safety measures and more. Don’t’ rely on memory and chance to keep you safe.
These steps should get you started in formulating a safety plan, but they represent only the absolute minimum of what you should plan for.
I hope that you have a safe and happy Memorial Day weekend. But remember, accidents can still occur even as the carefree days of summer begin and even on a holiday weekend. If another person’s negligence or recklessness has caused you to suffer a traumatic brain injury, catastrophic injury or caused the wrongful death of a family member call The Reiff Law Firm today. You can begin your free personal injury consultation by calling (215) 246-9000 or contact us online.