NEW JERSEY -  With Independence Day only a few days away, folks are already making plans for barbecues, picnics, trips to the Jersey Shore and of course, fireworks. However, July 4 is actually one of the dangerous American holidays.

Most deaths typically occur from car crashes, swimming incidents and firework accidents. On July 4, 2013, there were eight fatalities from fireworks and more than 11,000 injuries from them according to the National Safety Council.

In order to remind residents to be safe on the upcoming long Fourth of July holiday weekend, the American Red Cross released some safety tips to help keep the number of incidents and deaths to the bare minimum.

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“As everyone looks forward to a fun Fourth of July weekend, the Red Cross wants to make sure people know how to stay safe while enjoying the holiday,” said David Lewis, interim CEO, American Red Cross New Jersey Region.

Whether you are hosting a backyard pool party, attending one or heading to the beach this July 4, the Red Cross suggests residents keep these basic water safety hints in mind:

  • Ensure everyone in your family knows how to swim and only swim in designated areas supervised by lifeguards.
  • Always swim with a buddy; do not allow anyone to swim alone.
  • For a backyard pool, have appropriate equipment, such as reaching or throwing equipment, a cell phone, life jackets and a first aid kit.
  • If someone plans to swim in the ocean, they should always check weather conditions before going in the water.
  • Be aware of the danger of rip currents. If caught in one, swim parallel to the shore until out of the current. When free, turn and swim toward shore. If unable to swim to the shore, call out for help, float or tread water until free of the rip current and then head toward shore.

Backyard grills tend to cause a lot of injuries as well on Independence Day, which is why the Red Cross offers these gentle grilling reminders:

  • Always supervise a barbecue grill when in use.
  • Never grill indoors – not in the house, camper, tent, or any enclosed area.
  • Make sure everyone, including the pets, stays away from the grill.
  • Keep the grill out in the open, away from the house, the deck, tree branches, or anything that could catch fire. 
  • Use the long-handled tools especially made for cooking on the grill to keep the chef safe.

Anyone who has tried to take a ride down to the Jersey Shore on Fourth of July weekend knows that there will be plenty of company on the highways. Millions of Americans hit the road for the Fourth and the roadways are often as dangerous as New Year's Eve with large numbers of traffic accidents and fatalities. When getting into the car, the Red Cross stresses these important safety tips:

  • Buckle seat belts, observe speed limits.
  • Do not drink and drive.
  • Pay full attention to the road – don’t use a cell phone to call or text.
  • Use caution in work zones.
  • Clean the vehicle’s lights and windows to help the driver see, especially at night. Turn the headlights on as dusk approaches, or during inclement weather.

Fireworks have been a part of Fourth of July celebrations since 1777 and they also account for many of the accidents and deaths that happen on the holiday.