In one of my other “lives,” I write the Traffic Talk column for The Oklahoman. I had a special request for a reprint of one of those columns recently, one regarding the Fourth of July and dumb things people do with fireworks.
These are dumb, for sure, but they also are dangerous. So here is my column from July 3, 2006. Please don’t try these at home.
Examples of why fireworks and vehicles don’t mix. Please don’t try these yourself.
• From an Oklahoma Lake Patrol officer: Three party enthusiasts decided to launch a large aerial display from a boat on one of our state’s largest lakes. This came after drinking from a keg of beer.
The group anchored, set up the shot, then lit it. When the fuse burned to the ignition point, the display launched, showering the boat — and the group — with sparks.
The overhead display was beautiful, the officer said, but the brightest “display” was created by the fire on the boat — clothing, paper sacks, and anything else that could burn.
The group was rescued by those on a boat nearby. The smoldering vessel was towed to shore.
• From a deputy sheriff: A carload of teenagers filled with the holiday spirit, or “spirits,” drove county roads, using the vehicle as a mobile launching platform for bottle rockets. Those in the back seat would light a rocket, then launch it from a pop bottle or by hand.
Everything worked well when the little rockets went skyward. But two steered into a pasture, igniting dry grass.
The resulting fire spread quickly. By the time the nearest fire department could get to it, the fire had consumed several acres.
• From a police officer: Four young people (about 10 or 11, the officer said) were taking turns lighting mini rockets and firing them at passing cars within the city limits of a mid-size Oklahoma community. The group moved frequently from one hiding place to another so as to avoid detection.
One mini-rocket sailed through an open window, striking the driver, who was startled and steered into a parked car.
Luckily, the driver was not injured. But two vehicles were damaged heavily.
• From an Oklahoma Highway Patrol trooper: On a state turnpike, a father and his three children were transporting three bags of fireworks to their home near Tulsa when the father tossed a cigarette out the driver’s window.
The cigarette blew back in through the driver’s-side passenger window and landed in one of the bags. Within seconds, the back seat was filled with exploding firecrackers, which in turn lit additional fireworks.
Two of the three children were injured.
In each instance, there was illegal activity, and someone had loss and/or injury.
By the way …
These stories come from those who have seen firsthand what can happen. Please don’t let that happen to you.
If you’re in a location where you legally can use fireworks, exercise caution. Otherwise, leave the displays to those trained to use them.
Have a happy Fourth. Enjoy your week and drive safely.