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Tips for traveling, staying safe this Fourth of July

GETZVILLE, N.Y. (WIVB) — Americans all across the country are getting excited for the Fourth of July. In fact, AAA said 71 million people nationwide are expected to travel 50 miles or more to celebrate the holiday.

“People want to be with their friends, be with their family, have these experiences and make memories together,” said Elizabeth Carey, AAA director of public relations.

Congestion is predicted every day this week, but especially Sunday and Monday as people return home. 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. are expected to be the busiest times.

“If you are going out and about, try to leave early or later in the evening,” Carey said. “That’s when there would be the least amount of traffic on the roads. We’re seeing a lot of people out mid-day.”

New York State Police also said there will be extra patrols on the roads as people travel to and from celebrations. Last year around the holiday, they issued 13,000 tickets and arrested more than 120 people for DWIs.

“We want you and your family to be as safe as possible,” said NYS Trooper James O’Callaghan. “That’s why we put extra patrols out, DWI patrols, road checks and things like that to make sure that people understand this is the utmost safety.”

While Independence Day can be fun, it can also spark danger fast.

“On the Fourth of July you’re going to see a lot of items involving heat,” said Getzville Fire Lieutenant David Morales. “Grilling, fireworks, sparklers, bonfires. Just make sure those are happening in an open area, nothing near houses or any kind of coverage.”

Lieutenant Morales said the Fourth of July is one of the most dangerous days of the year with a high rate of injuries and fires. If you are going to use these items, which include legal fireworks, he urges that you use them in wide, open areas, that you have water ready nearby and that you avoid dry areas.

“They are ground based sparkling devices,” Morales said. “They’re not going to go up in the air, they’re not going to explode, on the label it says, ’emits showers and sparks.’ Anything that goes up in the air like a mortar round that will go up and explode, you’re going to want to leave that to the professionals. You’re not going to be able to buy those anywhere in New York state.”

Some fireworks are illegal in the state of New York. O’Callaghan warned what can happen to those who use them.

“The thing you have to remember is you can still get arrested for having non-New York compliant fireworks,” O’Callaghan said. “In the worse case scenario, if you use those items and maybe burn down a house or injure a person because you’re not using them properly, you go from the firework charge to even beyond that with penal law charges.”

“We just want people to be safe,” Morales said. “That’s our number one goal at the end of the day. We can’t control what you do but we want to make sure you’re doing it in a safe way.”

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Hope Winter is a reporter and multimedia journalist who has been part of the News 4 team since 2021. See more of her work here.

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