Is July 4 Holiday the Most Dangerous Weekend?

By CBS Investigative Unit intern Jack Weingart

After a near-death experience with fireworks last year, Bill Smiley, an eight-year pyrotechnic-show veteran volunteer is lucky to be alive, let alone able to walk.

Shattering his right kneecap after a defective mortar unexpectedly exploded during a fireworks show last Fourth of July, Smiley underwent a total of four surgeries and 10 months of physical therapy. His medical bills totaled hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Smiley is like one of many Americans who will get injured this Fourth of July holiday, one of the most dangerous weekends of the year for injuries due to fireworks, traffic accidents and drinking.

A U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission report released earlier this week revealed that nearly 70 percent of the fireworks-related injuries reported last year occurred around the Fourth of July holiday.

The report also found that approximately 2,000 more Americans were injured in 2009 by fireworks than in 2008. And 54 percent of those injured were under the age of 20.

This weekend is also a risky time to be driving. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data found the Fourth of July weekend to be the second most dangerous (after Thanksgiving) according to the most recent statistics available from 2008. In that year, 491 people died in car accidents over the holiday weekend.

And this weekend, expect to see more emergency room visits for underage drinking.

Researchers from the Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration found an 87 percent increase in the number of emergency room visits for underage drinking over the 2008 Fourth of July weekend compared to other days in July.

Have a fun weekend, but be sure to keep your health insurance card handy.