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Drive carefully this holiday weekend

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The National Safety Council is calling on drivers to exercise additional caution and take control of their own safety during the three-day Fourth of July holiday period.

NSC estimates indicate 466 people may be killed and an additional 53,600 may be seriously injuredi in motor vehicle crashes during the three-day Fourth of July holiday period.This is the highest predicted number of deaths the Council has released for a three-day Independence Day holiday period since 2008.

The estimate comes as the Council wraps up National Safety Month, observed each June to highlight the leading causes of preventable injury and death so Americans can make decisions that help them defy the odds.

"The number of people dying on our roadways is unacceptable," said Deborah A.P. Hersman, president and CEO of the National Safety Council. "The Council issues these estimates not to scare drivers but to empower them to make safe decisions behind the wheel. We hope Americans will spend their holiday safely watching fireworks and celebrating with family rather than sitting in an emergency room."

This year has already been a risky one on the roads. National Safety Council preliminary estimates show motor vehicle fatalities increased 8 percent in 2015 compared with 2014 – the largest year-over-year percentage increase in 50 years. The increase has contributed to the historic spike in unintentional deaths, which now are at an all-time high.

To help ensure a safe holiday, the Council recommends:

  • Making sure every passenger buckles up every trip. The Council estimates 181 lives could be saved this holiday by seat belts.
  • Designating an alcohol and drug-free driver or arranging alternate transportation. Since 2010, more than 37 percent of all fatal crashes during each Fourth of July holiday have involved alcohol.
  • Getting plenty of sleep and taking regular breaks to avoid fatigue on long trips.
  • Never using a cell phone behind the wheel, even hands-free.
  • Staying engaged with your teens' driving habits. An NSC survey found many parents are more inclined to loosen household driving rules during the summer.
  • Learning about your vehicle's safety systems and how to use them. MyCarDoesWhat? can help drivers understand the ins and outs of features such as adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking, blind spot warning systems and backup cameras.
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