As the 4th of July holiday approaches, we think of sunshine, barbecues and, of course, our nation’s independence. But, unfortunately, for many people the 4th is a reminder of how tragedy can strike at any moment. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, an average of 200 people visit the emergency room every day with fireworks-related injuries in the month around the 4th of July holiday and, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the 4th is the deadliest day for drivers, with traffic deaths numbering well above any other day of the year, including New Year’s Eve.
Every year, we hear reports of deaths related to the holiday, and sometimes they are downright grizzly. In 2011 a father of two was decapitated by a firework he was attempting to set off in front of his home in Fargo, North Dakota. A witness described the incident to a local newspaper: “All we saw was a cloud of smoke, a bang. When I walked up to his body, it was nothing but his shoulders down.”
In that same year, a 19-year-old newlywed Oklahoma man was hit in the neck and killed by exploding fireworks in front of his family who had gathered at his home for a backyard 4th of July barbecue.
In 2013, an 8-year-old Oklahoma boy fell from a 4th of July parade float and died from severe head trauma after being pulled underneath the trailer’s wheels. The float was being driven by the boy’s own father.
Freak accidents like these can happen in an instant and without warning. One small slip, or someone else’s poor judgment could end your life and change the lives of those around you forever. Even those who take strict safety precautions aren’t immune to deadly mishaps. You can never be sure whether a “harmless” firework might be defective or otherwise unsafe. And, even if you’re observing all the traffic laws while you make your way down to the family get together, it doesn’t mean everyone else is.
This isn’t to say we should all cancel our festivities. The 4th of July is a cause for celebration, a time when families get together to share a drink and a meal with loved ones and celebrate the birth of this nation we all love. But as we gather around our grills and pull out our folding chairs for the fireworks show, we should be aware of the dangers, and take steps to protect ourselves and our families, including make sure that they are covered in the event of your passing.
From staying away from large scale fireworks, to supervising your kids with something as seemingly innocuous as sparklers—which have been known to cause fires and serious injuries—there are simple things you can do to lower your chances of accidents. And for those freak occurrences that you just can’t predict, things like fire insurance and life insurance can go a long way toward protecting your family should the unthinkable happen to you. No one expects the worst on the 4th of July, but it’s always better to be prepared, just in case.