The Fourth of July is a highpoint of summer, with parades, picnics, cookouts with friends and family and, of course, lots of fireworks.
But the holiday weekend can be hazardous as well. Newton Medical Center's emergency room typically sees injuries related to drunk driving accidents and burns from mishandling fireworks on the holiday weekend, according to spokesperson Sharon Barbour.
By practicing some common sense, you can celebrate Independence Day without making a trip to the hospital or calling out the fire trucks.
Don't drink and drive
Drivers even contemplating having a drink over the weekend should think twice before getting in the car.
Along with State Troopers and police officers, deputies will be practicing DUI enforcement this holiday weekend, said Newton County Sheriff's Office spokesperson Lt. Mark Mitchell.
New, stricter DUI laws that just took effect as of Tuesday also penalize repeat offenders more harshly by making the fourth DUI charge they receive within 10 years a felony instead of a misdemeanor. The new law also requires a clinical evaluation for the first offense.
Aerial firecrackers that are propelled, like a rocket, are illegal in the state of Georgia. But even ground fireworks, like sparklers, can cause serious injury.
"First and foremost is the danger that comes with handling fireworks, especially with young children," said Newton County Fire Department Chief Mike Satterfield. "These sparklers out there today are very, very hot. There's always a high degree of danger from burns."
A study in the journal "Pediatrics" found that 20 percent of all firecracker related injuries in children were caused by sparklers, with 30 percent from firecrackers and 17 percent from aerial devices. Most of the injuries involved the eyes, face and hands and 80 percent of the injured were boys averaging 11 years old.
Satterfield also warned of the danger from sparks setting off fires in dry conditions.
"In the last two to three weeks, we've been extremely dry," he said. "Combine that with the high heat, those are recipes to dry out the surface cover on land."
As a precaution, the NCFD along with the Georgia Forestry Commission burned off the field last week where the fireworks for The Church at Covington will be ignited.
In addition to drunk drivers and firecrackers, there are also risks from people shooting live rounds into the air.
"We get a lot of calls for individuals shooting firearms in the air or fireworks that aren't legal," said NCSO spokesperson Lt. Mark Mitchell. "People don't need to shoot their guns and rifles in the air in celebration. What goes up comes down."
Spending time at the lake, pond or pool is a great way to beat the summer heat, but parents of young children need to remember to keep an eye out at all times.
Drowning is the second leading cause of accidental death for children ages 14 and younger. Every year, approximately 760 children ages 14 and younger die from accidental drowning, and an estimated 3,000 go to the emergency room after near-drowning incidents nation-wide.
"Children drown quickly and quietly," said Beverly Losman of Children's Healthcare of Atlanta and Safe Kids Georgia. "A drowning child cannot cry or shout for help. If a child is missing, always check the pool first - there is no time to spare." The most important precaution parents can take is active supervision, said Losman.
"Simply being near your child is not necessarily supervising," Losman said. Although 94 percent of parents say they supervise their children while swimming, many acknowledge that they engage in other distracting activities at the same time - for example, talking, eating, reading or taking care of another child.
"A supervised child is in sight at all times with your undivided attention focused on the child," Losman said. "When there are children in or near the water, adults should take turns serving as the designated 'water watcher,' paying undivided attention."