Celebrate our nation’s independence, but use common sense, good judgment

Published 9:34 am Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Saturday marks the beginning of one of the most celebrated long weekends in the United States.

The three-day Fourth of July weekend will be a time for travel, fireworks, concerts, picnics and special events.

Locally, the First Baptist Church will hold a patriotic concert July 3 and the annual Independence Day Fireworks Celebration is Monday to close the weekend. In between, there will be programs at the Vicksburg National Military Park, family barbecues and gatherings. And the consumption of alcoholic beverages.

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The American Automobile Association projects nearly 43 million Americans will travel this Independence Day weekend, representing the highest Fourth of July travel volume on record and 5 million more travelers compared to Memorial Day weekend. The holiday travel period is defined as Thursday, June 30 to Monday, July 4.

That means a lot of people will be on the road using America’s Interstate system to get from their home to that of a loved one to celebrate the holiday, or vacation destination, an in-state holiday celebration in Jackson, or Tupelo or on the Gulf Coast, or possibly one of the July 4 events in a major city like Washington, D.C., Boston or St. Louis. Having that many cars on the road, combined with other matters, such as road construction or highway detours, means there will be times where motorists will run into situations like traffic congestion or other situations that may cause someone to take a risk driving they may not ordinarily take to reach a destination. And the consumption of alcohol can make that risk even more dangerous. And that can spell serious trouble.

The Mississippi Highway Patrol and local law enforcement agencies will be stepping up their efforts during the holiday period to make sure both state residents and visitors to Mississippi can enjoy a safe holiday. They will be on the lookout for impaired drivers and other traffic violations, and stopping cars to ensure the driver and passengers have their seat belts on and secure. But motorists can do some things to ensure they’re not stopped by police and have a safe holiday:

• Do not drink and drive.

• Slow down – especially in bad weather, construction areas, traffic and unfamiliar areas.

• Monitor weather conditions. In the event of bad weather, avoid high water and use extra caution on roadways.

• Stay alert. Eliminate distractions while driving, including the use of mobile devices.

• Use seat belts and child restraints.

• Move over a lane or slow down if you see a fellow motorist on the side of the road.