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Celebrate Fourth of July safely, responsibly

It is hard to believe the Fourth of July is already upon us, but it is.

Seems like Memorial Day was just the other day.

The summer heat and humidity, however, have descended upon the Miss-Lou like a wet, electric blanket which is surely a sign that July is here, and perhaps the best way to enjoy the day is by hanging out in the air conditioning.

This year, the Independence Day holiday falls on a Thursday, giving us the potential for a four-day holiday weekend.

Here in the Miss-Lou plenty of people will find their way down to the riverfront after dark to watch the Fourth of July Fireworks show over the Mississippi River.

The fireworks show is the highlight of the holiday that celebrates our nation’s independence and marks the publication date of the Declaration of Independence from England in 1776.

What that means to most Americans is that we are free to enjoy the holiday anyway we want, and plenty of Americans have fought and died over the years to defend that right.

Therefore, people who are fortunate to be able to take the holiday will spend the day hanging out by the pool, boating at the lake, having cookouts and get togethers with friends and family or hanging out in the air conditioning binge-watching some of those television drama series they’ve been missing while they were working.

Of course, alcohol is sure to be a part of many people’s celebrations.

If you drink during the holiday, I urge you to be careful and please make sure you have a designated driver.

While I’m on my soapbox, please put down the smartphones when you are driving.

Just talking on the telephone while driving is bad enough but texting is an absolute no-no.

Texting takes your eyes and attention off the road and endangers other drivers and is at least as distracting if not more so than driving intoxicated.

The roads are dangerous enough without impaired drivers, much less texters and phone-talkers.

If you must take a telephone call while you are driving, be sure and use a hands-free device, or better yet, pull over and stop in a parking lot to take or make the telephone call.

Those rules of the road should apply not only over the holiday but every time we get behind the wheel.

Our forefathers fought and died for our freedom but freedom has limits.

Your freedom should not impede the rights of others or endanger other people’s lives.

Cars today are like giant living rooms and sometimes it is easy to forget that we are hurtling thousands of pounds of metal along the highway.

One slip up can mean a matter of life or death and that can cost the freedom not only of the victim of any accidents, but also the perpetrator of the crime.

Freedom is too precious to lose because we were selfish enough not to pay attention to our driving, whether impaired by alcohol or drugs or by being distracted by a smartphone.

OK, end of rant.

Have fun, celebrate our nation’s independence but do so responsibly and have great time.

Happy Fourth of July, everyone!

Scott Hawkins is editor of The Natchez Democrat. Reach him at 601-445-3540 or scott.hawkins@natchezdemocrat.com.

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