As this Memorial Day rolls around and we start to make family plans, I am reminded that this holiday weekend is also considered one of the most dangerous of the year.
Why? Isn’t this the time set aside to pay tribute to our U.S. men and women who died during their military service? What’s so dangerous about paying tribute?
Memorial Day is observed on the last Monday of May and was originally known as Decoration Day with its origins dating back to the years following the Civil War. It did not become an official federal holiday until 1971 and is probably the only day of the year that you can predict the exact location where the president of the United States will be, as he travels across the Potomac to Arlington National Cemetery to honor are fallen heroes at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
Many Americans observe Memorial Day by visiting cemeteries or memorials, holding family gatherings, basking on the lake, swimming, grilling out, attending sporting tournaments and participating in parades. But therein lies the risk.
Until recently with three active kids in sports, I was either coaching or watching one of them, and my biggest fear that weekend was always catching a screeching foul baseball, softball or soccer ball upside the head. Memorial Day weekend has always been a very popular time for sporting activities, including tournaments away from home. To prove my point, if you find yourself out driving through our community parks this weekend, where such sporting venues occur, take notice of all the out-of-town license plates parked near those fields.
Memorial Day has become the unofficial start of summer, and many of us are quick to get out and soak it all up. To participate in all these events and activities many of us take to the roads, and that is one reason why this holiday is one of the deadliest travelling weekends of the year. It is also a weekend where many will consume alcohol and then get behind the wheel after attending such festivities, which increases the dangers on our highways.
The National Safety Council just released its estimates: 420 traffic fatalities and another 42,000 medically consulted injuries will occur from motor vehicle collisions over the Memorial Day weekend. The NSC also estimates 149 people may survive the Memorial Day holiday weekend because they will be wearing safety belts, and another 107 lives could be saved by safety belts.
As I think back to my early childhood days, I distinctly remember never wearing seatbelts, riding in back of pickup trucks; and even on one holiday weekend trip back home, climbing into the area below the back windshield to stretch out to catch a nap.
Today we are more safety conscious, and passenger vehicles have become better equipped with seatbelts, air bags and antilock brakes and are even better constructed to absorb impacts. Your odds of surviving this weekend are much better if you just buckle up.
A recent report by the American Academy of Pediatrics find that when comparing holidays, Memorial Day has the second highest number of child injuries. It is also the first day many communities and homeowners will open up their pools, and according to the National Safety Council, drowning claims the lives of more than 4,000 people every year in America.
It is often one of the busiest weekends for boating. Anytime you place a large amount of people in a confined space such as a lake, with moving, high-powered motor boats and jet skis, and then throw in a little alcohol and poor judgment, there is the potential for problems. Nearly 25 percent of all boating injuries occurred on three-day holidays — Memorial Day, fourth of July and Labor Day. To learn more about boating safety click here.
Memorial Day weekend is the day for firing up our grills — and in a few cases burning down their homes. Every year on average over 17,000 people visit emergency rooms because of injuries involving grills. According to the National Fire Protection Association, more than one-third of those injuries are from igniting grills. For safety tips, information and videos on safe grilling, visit NFPA’s website.
Finally, when you consider that all the food that is cooked and consumed this Memorial Day weekend, you then have to be worried about cross contamination with raw meats, improperly cooked foods and foods being stored at incorrect temperatures.
Now that I have scared you to death and convinced you to retreat to your bomb shelters this upcoming doomsday weekend, let me tell you that safety is a state of mind. If it looks or feels unsafe, then it probably is. You can increase your odds of waking up on Tuesday by familiarizing yourself with the safety tips related to your holiday plans. Then remember, good judgment comes from experience, and experience — well, that comes from poor judgment.
Keven Moore is director of Risk Management Services for Roeding Insurance (www.roedinginsurance.com). He has a bachelor’s degree from University of Kentucky, a master’s from Eastern Kentucky University and 25-plus years of experience in the safety and insurance profession. He lives in Lexington with his family and works out of both the Lexington and Northern Kentucky offices. Keven can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.