An often-overlooked aspect of the Fourth, especially during a long holiday weekend, is that too many among us will engage in behavior that is risky not only to ourselves, but to our loved ones and others around us.
Fireworks are illegal for everybody in Massachusetts, but that has not stopped the proliferation of fireworks in recent years. In Massachusetts alone in 2022, fire departments reported 106 fires and explosions attributed to fireworks, an increase of nearly a third from 2021. More than half of these incidents took place during the week of July 4. All told, fireworks-related incidents in Mass. last year caused 38 injuries and $414,279 in damages.
Every year there are more than 10,000 injuries across the country that require emergency room visits, with many fireworks’ users losing fingers and suffering burns that will maim them for life.
Other risky behavior also spikes during the holiday weekend. From 2017 to 2021, there were 1,460 drivers who were killed in motor vehicle traffic crashes over the Fourth of July holiday period, of whom 38% were drunk.
This same admonition also applies to boat owners, who all-too-often think that being in the water while under the influence is safe and acceptable behavior.
In addition to happy memories from our youth, the Fourth of July also resurrects a tragic memory of a friend, an athletic young man in his 20s who was one of our basketball buddies, who became intoxicated at a backyard barbecue. He fell off a small porch when he missed a step and fractured some vertebrae, leaving him a paraplegic and wheelchair-bound for the rest of his life.
That tragic event happened almost 30 years ago, but the shock of hearing of our friend’s accident, and then seeing him for the first time in a wheelchair, never to play basketball again, is something we never will forget.
In the 1800s and early 1900s, the Fourth of July served as a convenient excuse for young men to go on a rampage throughout their communities, vandalizing public and private property. The term “a safe and sane Fourth” was introduced at the turn of the 20th century to discourage deliberate acts of rowdyism.
Although we no longer celebrate the Fourth as wantonly as our ancestors did, nonetheless we all must do our part to make sure that we observe the Fourth’s festivities safely and sanely, both for ourselves and our loved ones.
We wish all of our readers a happy, fun-filled, and safe Fourth of July.