The July 4 holiday weekend is often marked by mixing alcohol, fireworks, grilling and boating-all potentially dangerous combinations. The following are some tip from various state agencies on having fun safely:
Explosive fireworks like firecrackers and bottle rockets are illegal to sell and use in Georgia, according to the state Insurance and Safety Fire Commissioner's Office. Use them and you could face jail, fines and legal liability for any fires.
Non-explosive fireworks such as sparklers are legal. Here are some tips for safe use:
-Always read and follow label directions.
-Only use fireworks outdoors.
-Never experiment or attempt to make your own fireworks.
-Only light one firework at a time.
-Never re-ignite malfunctioning fireworks.
-Fireworks should only be used with close adult supervision.
-Never give fireworks to small children.
-Be sure to have water handy.
-Never throw fireworks at another person.
State Troopers are already on the lookout for drivers under the influence this holiday week as Operation Zero Tolerance, the impaired driving enforcement campaign, runs through Sunday, July 6.
Troopers will be patrolling on interstates as well as secondary roads.
The Rockdale County Sheriff's Office is taking part of Operation Zero Tolerance with concetrated traffic patrols and license checkpoints throughout the weekend.
Last year, during the 2013 Fourth of July Holiday, the RCSO made 21 arrests from license check points with 6 being for Driving Under the Influence (DUI). The RCSO has already made 86 DUI arrests this year through traffic enforcement.
"I encourage everyone to have a good time over the holidays but do it safely" said Sheriff Eric J. Levett. "If you decide to drink make sure you have a designated driver because if someone drives impaired they will be arrested. The RCSO has a zero tolerance for drivers who are driving under the influence."
"During this period, Georgia State Troopers are joining law enforcement officers from across the country in concentrating on getting impaired drivers off the roads," said Colonel Mark W. McDonough, Commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Safety.
"People know driving impaired is illegal, yet they still take their chances. Impaired driving crashes can be prevented if drivers will take the initiative to not drive under the influence," said Colonel McDonough. Troopers will not hesitate to arrest an impaired driver and tow their vehicle. "Also remember, if you see a driver that you suspect is impaired, notify local law enforcement," the commissioner added.
Driving under the influence of alcohol is a major killer on Georgia roads, and state DUI laws are strict. Police often run holiday checkpoints to check drivers for DUI. If you are charged with DUI, you're going straight to jail, and you'll face fines, license suspension, community service and other penalties.
The key to avoiding DUI, according to the state Department of Highway Safety, is to plan ahead for a safe way home if you will be drinking. If you're in a group, designate a sober driver and leave your own car keys at home. If you've been drinking on your own and need to get home, call a sober friend or family member for a ride, or use alternative transportation such as a taxi.
The top boating safety tips are very simple: Always wear a life jacket and never drink alcohol while boating.
Boating under the influence of alcohol is the leading cause of boating fatalities, according to the Kentucky-based National Association of State Boating Law Administrators. Don't assume that there is any safe amount of drinking you can do while boating, they say.
And don't assume you won't get busted for boating under the influence. State Department of Natural Resources rangers are conducting crackdowns and, as of June 24, had arrested 69 people on boating under the influence charges statewide, according to a press release.
The following are some safe swimming tips from the state Department of Natural Resources:
-Always swim with a buddy. Never swim alone.
-Parents and guardians should always watch their children when swimming. Always know their location. Don't assume someone else is watching them.
-Know your swimming limits and stay within them. Don't try to keep up with a stronger skilled swimmer or encourage others to keep up with you.
-Swim in supervised areas only. Drop-offs or other underwater hazards may not be detectable from above the surface.
-Obey "No Diving" signs that indicate the area is unsafe for headfirst entries. Enter feet-first into water rather than headfirst if you don't know the depth.
-Watch out for the "dangerous too's": too tired, too cold, too far from safety, too much sun, too much strenuous activity.
-Alcohol and swimming don't mix. Alcohol affects your swimming and diving skills and reduces your body's ability to stay warm.
-If you are a marginal or non-swimmer, wear a life jacket. Some state-operated lakes will loan these for free.
The following are safety tips for charcoal grilling from the state Insurance and Safety Fire Commissioner's Office:
-Keep flammable materials such as leaves away from the grill, and keep the grill away from your house and car. It is illegal to use a grill on a balcony or within 10 feet of a "combustible patio" on a ground floor.
-Do not leave a grill unattended.
-Keep children and pets away from the grill.
-Use lighter fluid only if it is made specifically for starting a charcoal grill. Never use gasoline to start a grill, and never add lighter fluid after the grill is already lit.
-Use grills outdoors only. They are a fire hazard and the smoke is lethal in a contained space.
-If you are cooking on a deck, make sure its support posts are in good condition and that you do not overload it with guests.