The first week of July, home to 4th of July weekend, is one of the busiest and most congested travel weekends of the entire year. Due to this extensive vacation traffic, it is also one of the most fatal.

The Fourth of July evokes images of cracking barbecues, dazzling fireworks, joyous family reunions, and patriotic scenes of red, white, blue, but not necessarily images of safe driving.

Every year, there are innumerable crashes, injuries, and even deaths during the July 4th weekend. Thousands are cited for speeding and often hundreds for DUI.

Don’t sacrifice your weekend, your life, or anyone else’s during a holiday meant for celebration. It’s reckless and it’s unpatriotic.

Below are 10 vital safe driving tips for this 4th of July weekend:

Below are 10 vital safe driving tips for this 4th of July weekend:

Double-check oil and fluid levels, windshield wipers, lights, tire tread and pressure, etc. Have a professional give it a tune-up. It is always better to be safe than sorry.

Pack SUVs and other large vehicles properly.

SUVs are much less stable with the added weight of passengers, equipment, and other luggage. Since they exhibit a higher center of gravity than most other vehicles, SUVs are significantly more likely to tip over on the road. Additionally, loose cargo or debris put other drivers at risk, so keep all external items secure.

Buckle up.

Put simply, seat belts save lives. When buckled correctly, they reduce severe crash-related injuries and deaths by about 50%. Don’t believe us? Then believe the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), they are the experts. Additionally, be certain to secure your infants and children in properly fitted car or booster seats.

Don’t drink and drive.

Driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) at or above 0.08 percent (0.08 g alcohol per 100 ml blood) is illegal in all 50 states and in the District of Columbia. Drinking alcohol impairs reaction time, judgment, and coordination, skills mandatory for safe driving. Increased alcohol consumption leads to increased impairment and risk of an accident. All doses of alcohol, large or small, affect judgment. If you drink, do not drive. Instead, elect a designated driver to remain sober for the day or weekend.

Remain alert.

If feeling sleepy or drowsy, take a break. Sleep deprivation is another form of impairment, so take advantage of rest stops or switch drivers if you are able to.

Be careful on rural roadways.

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) attests that more accidents occur on rural roads than anywhere else. This is especially dangerous since rural drivers are 10% less likely to wear seat belts while driving.

Adhere to speed limits.

Plan your day with enough time to reach your destination. Thousands of other drivers, unavoidable road construction, and, more than likely, summer storms will play a factor over the holiday weekend. Adjust appropriately and don’t speed. It’s not worth putting yourself and others at risk.

Ignore distractions.

Refrain from using your cell phone while driving, whether its for phone calls, text messages, emails, or other applications. Driving requires focus; using your phone will rob you of it. Have a passenger handle your GPS, CDs, and other responsibilities. Do not eat, handle food, put on makeup, fix your hair, or attempt other distracting tasks while driving.

Other drivers may not be so savvy, so you must pay full attention when others enter your lane, turn, or slow down. At a speed of 55mph, being distracted for 5 seconds means being distracted for the length of a football field. No touchdown is worth that risk.

Secure Fido.

You may be secure, but is your dog, cat, or other beloved pet? Canines and felines alike must be secured, particularly in crates with straps or bungee cords. Otherwise, Fido or Ms. Whiskers risk injury or death for both you and them.

Your life relies on driving defensively.

Celebrate safely for the Fourth of July weekend and beyond.