ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10)- Memorial Day signifies the beginning of summer gatherings spent outside at barbecues with family and friends. With the easing of COVID restrictions for vaccinated people in New York, this year’s Memorial Day also signals the end of a very long period of social distancing and extra health precautions.

Before throwing caution to the wind, as people head out to celebrate, they should be aware of some other precautions that can keep them safe while they’re traveling, boating, or grilling.

Car accidents

Memorial Day weekend is one of the two deadliest holidays for travelers on the road. Second, only to Independence Day, an estimated 415 people will die in car accidents throughout the U.S. this Memorial Day weekend, according to the National Safety Council (NSC). An average of 448 died over Memorial Day weekend between 2016-2018, the NSC said.

However, there is concern this year’s numbers could be much higher than the average.

“As states began to reopen a variety of businesses and venues following the initial coronavirus lockdown, this Memorial Day may have been even more deadly than those in the past. During the Memorial Day weekend in 2020, Minnesota had the highest number of people killed in vehicle crashes in 10 years,” according to said approximately 36.6 million Americans will hit the road this weekend. The top three reasons for Memorial Day accidents are:

  • Drinking and driving
  • Running red lights
  • Number of vehicles on the road

In 2019, speed was the cause of 26% of all deaths or injuries from traffic accidents, said NSC. Speeding reduces the amount of time a driver must respond to a situation and can also reduce the effectiveness of guardrails, dividers, or concrete barriers, they said.

Road safety

  • Prepare your vehicle- check the air pressure in all four tires, the oil, and for any recalls.
  • Limit distractions by putting your cell phone away.
  • Buckle up and make sure car seats are installed properly.
  • Pay attention to and drive the speed limit, watch out for others using the roadway like people walking or biking.
  • Find a designated driver or plan to get home another way if you’re going to be drinking alcohol.

Source: NSC

Boating accidents

In 2019, N.Y. passed Brianna’s Law which requires anyone operating a boat to take a safety course. Lawmakers passed the legislation in the attempt to prevent boating accidents like the one that claimed the life of 8-year-old Charlotte McCue in 2016 on Lake George.

In advance of the holiday, many local law enforcement agencies were urging boaters to use caution and to operate boats sober.

“Through the pandemic, boat sales, personal watercraft sales were through the roof. We saw a large presence on our waterways throughout Saratoga County, including near the Sacandaga,” Saratoga County Sheriff Michael Zurlo told NEWS10. “We want to make sure the public buying boats that they know their boat, that they know how to operate the boat, that they make sure they have the proper equipment in the boat.”

Almost 80% of related boating deaths were due to drowning, most of them because the individual was not wearing a life jacket in 2017. Drinking played a big role in boating accident deaths, 19% of which had alcohol involved, according to

A lot of people are not boat owners, but they are boat renters. They lack experience on the water and do not know all the regulations that come with boating.  Memorial Day boaters may be some of the least experience boaters on the water. 81% of deaths occurred from operators who do not receive any instruction or even know how to safely operate a boat.

Grilling accidents

Each year an average of 10,600 calls were made to fire departments in the U.S. between 2014-2017. They resulted in 10 deaths, 160 injuries, and $149 million in property damage annually, based on a report from the National Fire Prevention Association (NFPA).

More than half of grill owners grill over the Memorial Day weekend, says NFPA. The most common factors that contributed to gas grill fires were leaks or breaks, an unclean grill, leaving the grill unattended, and having the grill too close to something flammable.

Between 2014 and 2018 19,700 people went to emergency rooms for injuries caused by a barbecue or grilling. Grill fires are likely to start when cooking materials including food, flammable/other combustible liquids, or gas catches on fire, the report said.

Grill safely

  • Use propane and charcoal grills outside away from homes, decks, or deck railings, and out from under eaves or branches.
  • Children and pets should stay at least three feet away from grills.
  • Remove grease or fat buildup from grills and trays below.
  • Don’t leave grills unattended.
  • Use charcoal starter fluid only to start charcoal grills.
  • Let coals completely cool and dispose of them in a metal container.

Source: NFPA

A gas grill hose should be checked for leaks each year before using it for the first time. To check a hose for leaks put light soapy water on the hose. Any bubbles will indicate a leak. If a grill has a gas leak either indicated by soapy water or smell with no flame, turn the gas tank, and grill off.

If the leak stops, the grill should be looked at by a professional. If it does not stop or if gas can be smelled while cooking, NFPA says to call the fire department immediately.