As the Labor Day weekend arrives, officials recommend residents take safety precautions over the weekend marking the unofficial end of summer.
Since residents will likely be driving, having picnics, playing sports, swimming or having cookouts, officials remind people to be careful.
Pine Bluff Fire and Emergency Services Chief Shauwn Howell said people should be safe while grilling, swimming, boating and driving. While people want to enjoy themselves, Howell said the first responders wish everyone a safe weekend. For example, adults should be the only ones cooking on the grill.
“Keep children away from flames,” Howell said. “Have enough space between the grill and the house to avoid a fire.”
The fire department has responded to fires that began when people did not extinguish flames on grills, he said. Before lighting a match, people should inspect the grill to make sure it is working properly, he said. There is no need to have a huge flame, so people should not douse a grill with lighter fluid, he said.
He advises people to stay hydrated with water, take breaks from strenuous activities and to wear life jackets when near water. Howell also said people who drink should have a designated driver.
“Be responsible and enjoy your weekend,” Howell said. “We do not want to see anyone getting hurt.”
To ask for assistance in a non-emergency, Howell welcomes peoplecall the Pine Bluff Fire and Emergency Services at 870-730-2048.
Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department Major Lafayette Woods Jr. said deputies will be patrolling the roads and stopping suspected drunk drivers.
“As we do every year for Labor Day, we will maximize our patrol to keep our residents safe on the roads,” Woods said. “We maximize our patrolling efforts because we see an influx of people driving while impaired on seasonal holidays. We find people celebrating more with alcoholic beverages on these holidays.”
Woods said the “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” national campaign is helping, including through the sheriff’s department receiving laptop computers and body cameras. The cameras capture the interactions of law enforcement officers with citizens, he said.
Many people will be taking to the water for swimming or boating. Woods recommends adults watch children and prevent any non-swimmers from getting into the water. Boaters should have a life preserver on the vessel and ideally life vests for each occupant.
Deputies will be patrolling the waters of Lake Langhofer looking for drunken boaters, Woods said. While this is a crime, it is less common than drunken drivers, he said.
The waters of Lake Langhofer are unpredictable with strong currents that change by the minute, Woods said. People should stay away if they are not strong swimmers.
“Lake Langhofer is not for beginners,” Woods said. “It can be dangerous even for an advanced swimmer.”
The highways will see an influx of motorists this holiday. AAA public affairs specialist Don Redman said people should check their vehicle or take it to their mechanic before heading on a long journey.
“Tires need to be inflated to the proper pressure. And you do not want to forget your spare tire,” Redman said. “Check your car’s fluid levels, belts, hoses, and do a battery load test.”
Along with the car being in optimal shape, the driver should also be well rested and mentally sharp, Redman said. People driving long distances become fatigued, and a lack of physical activity contributes to this epidemic, he said. To stay alert, Redman recommends drivers take a break every 100 miles or two hours.
“Do jumping jacks or take a brisk walk,” Redman said. “Make sure you take plenty of breaks. Do not rely on artificial means like coffee to be alert. … You have to combat against the monotony of long-distance driving. Studies have shown that turning up the radio and rolling down the window does not make a difference.”
Additionally, Redman said people who take prescription medications may be drowsy, so they should not be driving in the first place.
Besides inspecting one’s car, Redman recommends packing reflective triangles in case the vehicle breaks down. A person experiencing car problems should exit a highway onto local roads, rather than parking on a highway’s shoulders, Redman said.
“Pack a cooler with drinks in case you do break down,” Redman said. “You could be stranded for an hour.”
He recommends people keep a first aid kit and a fire extinguisher inside their vehicle.
“Engines can have electrical fires,” Redman said. “The extinguisher will enable you to put it out before it engulfs the vehicle.”
Another key part to driving safely is minimizing distractions. The driver should not be using a cell phone, because this would take his or her attention away from the road, he said. The passengers should also not be arguing with each other or making so much noise as to interfere with the driver, Redman said.
Along with law enforcement, AAA reminds people never to drive when they have consumed alcohol.
“We are behind the Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over campaign,” Redman said. “We encourage everyone to enjoy the holiday safely.”