2006-05-25 / Editorial Page

Remember safety when on the water

The thought of a tragedy or death probably never enters into the minds of most swimmers and boaters who are out enjoying a day of fun on the water, but perhaps it should. Last year, 51 people drowned and 16 others died in boating related incidents in Georgia. The Georgia Department Of Natural Resources, Wildlife Resources Division, encourages everyone to practice safety at all times when in and around the water.

The U.S. Coast Guard reports that out of a nationwide total of 484 boaters who drowned in 2004, 90 percent of them were not wearing a life jacket. Always remember - it won't work if you don't wear it!

Some tips for both boating and water safety include:

Take a boating safety course and/ or a swimming course.

Never swim alone. If you are a marginal swimmer, wear a flotation device.

Don't mix alcohol or drugs with boating or swimming.

Never let children swim or boat unsupervised. Remember, children under the age of 10 must wear a life jacket while on a moving boat.

Keep life jackets accessible never make someone feel uncomfortable if they choose to wear a life jacket.

Don't overdo boating and water fun. Don't swim when you are too tired, too cold, or too far from safety.

Learn and obey the "rules of the road" for boating.

Always be aware of the possibilities of hidden dangers such as underwater obstacles, changing currents and underwater drop-offs.

Tell someone where you are going and when you will return.

When you find yourself in a stressful situation, don't panic. If in nonflowing water, float or "dog-paddle" to safety. If in flowing water, float with the current, don't fight against it.

Prevention and common sense can help prevent water-related tragedies. For more information on boating safety or how to take a boating safety course, go to WRD website at www.goboatgeorgia.com or call (770)918-6408. To learn more about water safety, visit the Red Cross website at www.redcross.org.

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