It#039;s time to think about boating safety

Published 12:00 am Thursday, May 20, 2004

Tribune editorial staff

Memorial Day is drawing near, which means the days are getting both longer and warmer.

Because of this, the holiday marks the unofficial start of the summer recreational season. As many of us live in communities bordered by the Ohio River, more and more people are beginning to use it as a recreational area with boats and personal watercraft. Now is the perfect time to begin thinking about boating safety.

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Next week is National Safe Boating week, and organizations throughout the nation and state, including the Ohio Department of Natural Resources' Division of Watercraft, are stressing the importance of wearing a life jacket when taking to waterways. By simply using a life jacket, boaters can better their chances of survival should they be involved in a water-related accident.

According to the U.S. Coast Guard, 750 people died in 2002 in boating-related accidents across the United States. A total of 524 of those people drowned. Eighty-five percent of those who drowned were not wearing a life jacket.

As far as we are concerned, it is just plain foolish not to wear a life jacket. No matter how accomplished one is as a swimmer, the circumstances of a boating accident can put anyone at risk of drowning. It is very difficult to swim with certain injuries and impossible to swim unconscious.

Boating professionals, veteran boaters and marine officials know the importance of a life jacket. These folks know that the devices prevent unnecessary boating fatalities.

In addition to wearing life jackets, the ODNR encourages boaters to take other safety measures during National Safe Boating Week, such as getting boat safety inspections, taking boating education courses, avoiding alcohol consumption while boating, staying alert while boating and knowing and obeying boating rules.

Boating can be an enjoyable pastime when done safely. Keeping safe is the key to assuring it is a pastime you can enjoy for many years to come.