Celebrating Independence Day isn't all fun and fireworks. In fact, it can be a pretty deadly holiday.
July 4th is the third most-deadly holiday celebrated in the U.S. following Thanksgiving and Labor Day, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Here are three behaviors associated with July 4th barbecues that contribute to those statistics:
We drink too much and for too long.
July 4th is a heavy boozing day. Barbecues start in the early afternoon and don't conclude until after the fireworks at dusk. People are drinking beer or other alcoholic beverages during the whole party, and then they drive home. The DOT expects about 550 people to die on the roads this July 4th because of accidents involving drunk drivers.
Solution: Pace your drinking over the course of the party and be extra vigilant on the road home for those who didn't do the same.
We eat like there was no tomorrow, and for some, there may not be.
On any other day of the year, we take our burgers lean. On July 4th, we add bacon, cheese and avocado and nobody skips the bun. We heap relish on the hot dogs and wash it all down with a sweetened lemonade by the gallons. Sweet corn slathered in butter; a side dish of mac and cheese, pasta salad, cole slaw swimming in mayo, apple pie ala mode for dessert, and we fall down in a food stupor. With luck, someone optimistically brings a green salad but it sits off to the side by its lonesome as we rationalize that on July 4th, the iceberg lettuce, tomato and onion on top of the bacon and cheeseburger counts as veggies.
We not only pig out, we do it on the wrong foods. A 12-ounce beer has 150 calories; for the math challenged, drinking four beers is consuming 600 calories. A cheeseburger on a bun is about 450 calories. One link of Italian sausage? Try 260. Much of what we eat on July 4th is food we typically try to avoid.
So the question on your mind right now is likely this: Can one meal actually kill you? The answer is, for some people, yes it can. We offer up the controversy-courting Heart Attack Grill in Las Vegas, best known for its Quadruple Bypass Burger that carries a mind-boggling 10,000 calories when adorned with 20 strips of bacon. Two people in as many months collapsed mid-meal in the restaurant, which also offers free food to anyone who can weigh in at 350 pounds or higher.
Fireworks are dangerous.
Not everyone loves fireworks. Hard to believe, isn't it? In 2011, fireworks caused 17,800 reported fires that resulted in eight deaths, 40 injuries and $32 million in direct property damage, according to the National Fire Protection Association.
In 2012, emergency rooms treated 8,700 people for fireworks-related injuries. On July 4th, more U.S. fires are reported than on any other day, and fireworks account for two out of five of those fires.
Best to watch the organized community displays than try to stage one of your own.