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Keven Moore: Memorial Day weekend is full of fun and hazards; be safe and sure and follow the rules

Memorial Day, observed on the last Monday of May, 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 our fallen heroes at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

Many of you are making family plans this upcoming Memorial Day weekend and not to be an alarmist, let me remind you that this holiday is considered as one of the most dangerous days of the year.

COVID-19 may have altered plans for many families this year, but I suspect that it won’t stop them. To begin with, most state resorts and recreational parks will not be back open until June 1.
However, most private marinas and resorts are operational and boats can be rented and their boat ramps are open. To ensure your memorial plans are not going to be canceled you will just need to call your designation to verify what is open and what is closed.

Many Americans observe Memorial Day by visiting cemeteries or memorials, holding family gatherings, graduation parties, basking by the lake, swimming, grilling out, attending sporting tournaments and participating in parades.

But that is the reason it is such an unsafe period of the year. It signifies the start of summer even with COVID-19, when many of us are engaging in risky activities.

To participate in all these events and activities, most of us will drive to these events and some of us will, unfortunately, fall victim to an auto accidents. This is the main reason why this holiday is one of the deadliest travel weekends of the year.

Keven Moore works in risk management services. He has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Kentucky, a master’s from Eastern Kentucky University and 25-plus years of experience in the safety and insurance profession. He is also an expert witness. He lives in Lexington with his family and works out of both Lexington and Northern Kentucky. Keven can be reached at kmoore@roeding.com

It is also a holiday where many will consume alcohol and get behind the wheel, which increases the dangers on our highways.

Memorial Day holiday weekend begins at 6 p.m. Friday and ends at 11:59 p.m. on Monday and the National Safety Council (NSC) estimates that 366 people may die on U.S. roads during that period.

The NSC also estimated 149 people may survive the Memorial Day holiday weekend because they will be wearing safety belts, and another 107 lives could be saved if everyone wore them. This confidence interval cannot account for the unknown impact COVID-19 social distancing practices will have on holiday travel. Because of the unprecedented impact COVID-19 is having on social activities, the uncertainty of this year’s estimate is increased.
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 I climbed into the area below the back windshield to stretch out to catch a nap.

Today is a different era and we are being more safety-conscious. Passenger vehicles have become better equipped with seatbelts, airbags, anti-lock brakes, and other improvements to absorb impacts. This has vastly improved our chances of survival in auto accident. Clearly, your odds of surviving the weekend are much better if you simply buckle up.

The American Academy of Pediatrics found that when comparing holidays, Memorial Day has the second highest number of injuries to children. It is also the first day many communities and homeowners open their pools. According to the National Safety Council, drowning claims the lives of more than 4,000 people every year in America.

In addition, it is often one of the busiest weekends for boating as Kentuckians dodge the Ohio Navy traveling through our Commonwealth to invade our lakes and rivers. It is often the first time many of us will get our boats on the water this year as well.

Anytime you place a large number of people in a confined space such as a lake, with high powered motorboats and jet skis, then pepper in a little alcohol and poor judgment, bad things can happen. Nearly 25 percent of all boating injuries occurred on three-day holidays for Memorial Day, the Fourth of July and Labor Day weekends.

Memorial Day weekend is also the first day that many of us will fire up our grills and in a few cases, house fires will result. Every year on average over 17,000 people visit emergency rooms because of injuries involving grills and according to the NFPA with one-third of those injuries resulting from igniting grills.

Finally, when you consider all the food that is cooked and consumed this Memorial Day weekend, you then have to also be a little worried about cross-contamination, with raw meats, improperly cooked foods and food being stored at correct temperatures.

Now that I have thoroughly scared you, as you sit pondering whether you should cancel your family plans and instead retreat to your bomb shelters, let me tell you that your 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 all safety tips in whatever endeavor you are planning.

Then remember, good judgment comes from experience, and experience — well, that comes from poor judgment.

Be Safe My Friend.

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