Deadly Independence

I love fireworks. And really, who doesn’t? They’re almost everyone’s favorite attraction on the Fourth of July and usually one of the first things that comes to mind when you think of celebrating our independence. But as a trauma surgeon I want to discuss something even more common on this important day. It’s something I see, but you probably don’t or won’t think about: deadly car crashes.

July 4 and the days just before and after are historically the deadliest days of the year. Alcohol-fueled fun is often the root cause of tragedy. July 4 is America’s top beer drinking holiday. Even if you haven’t been drinking, chances are you’ll have a run-in with someone who has had something to drink. Historical traffic data predicts that typically during this holiday stretch,about 50,000 traffic crashes will require visits to the emergency room and more than 450 people will die. Holiday or not – always wear your seatbelt. Nationwide 200 of those lives could be saved just by wearing seatbelts. Fastening your seatbelt is a really simple action.

Let’s take a brief intermission and go back to the first thing I mentioned – fireworks. By comparison they too can cause significant injury sending tens of thousands of people to the emergency room with severe burns, loss of fingers, and facial and eye injuries. And more than seven people will likely die celebrating their independence with a colorful display. Each ER may only see a couple hundred people, but once you add them up – the injury numbers are staggering.

Celebrate our independence, celebrate our great country. If you plan on consuming alcohol – don’t leave anything up to chance. Make a plan to have a designated driver and stick to it. Alcohol and anything with a motor is a bad combination. Alcohol and anything that requires a flame (fireworks) – ditto – a bad combination. You know the drill. Have fun, but seriously – make a plan now and stick to it. We don’t want to see you at the Trauma Center during this holiday stretch. It’s no way to celebrate!

David Schultz, MD, FACS is a trauma surgeon at the Trauma Center at ThedaCare Regional Medical Center-Neenah. The Trauma Center hosts the P.A.R.T.Y. at the PAC program each year, educating over 50,000 teens in alcohol and destructive decision prevention since 1998