Play it safe when you are on water

The warmer temperatures and abundant sunshine of spring mean that local residents will again be turning to the outdoors for recreation.

Among the most popular activities area residents use to enjoy the spring and summer are boating and fishing. Both are fun ways to spend an afternoon, but both can lead to tragedy if proper precautions are not taken.

Lives are lost every year on waterways in our region, many because people take unnecessary risks or fail to follow safety procedures.

According to the Coast Guard, there were 565 fatal boating accidents that resulted in 633 deaths during 2018, the last year for which complete statistics are available.

During that same period, the Coast Guard shows, in Ohio there were 126 boating accidents, 15 of which were fatal and resulted in 17 deaths. In Pennsylvania, there were 63 accidents, 13 of which were fatal and resulted in 14 deaths. And, in West Virginia, there were 16 reported accidents, three of which were fatal and resulted in four deaths.

Whether it’s on a lake, a stream, a pond or the Ohio River, a few common-sense precautions can save lives and make the outdoor experience safer for everyone.

Safety starts with personal flotation devices. Sadly, research indicates that many of the drownings that are reported each year could have been prevented if the person involved had been properly wearing such a device.

It is the responsibility of boat operators to make sure there is at least one flotation device for each passenger and to make sure the devices are worn at all times.

Parents or another responsible adult must take special care to ensure that the devices are properly fitted for children.

Accidents on and around the water can happen very quickly and rarely leave enough time for a person without a flotation device to properly put one on. A good safety rule for boaters is to wear a flotation device at all times, not just when the boat is in motion.

Those who enjoy fishing should wear their life vests at all times. Many anglers will wear the devices until they reach their fishing spot, and then remove them, a choice which can be dangerous. Remember, you can be thrown from a boat by rough water.

Safety courses are a must for individuals who plan to spend time on the water.

They offer information that has been proven to save lives.

Another factor that must not be overlooked is alcohol. It has no place in safe boating. Impaired boaters are as much a danger on the water as they are on city streets. Sadly, alcohol is a factor in many serious boating accidents.

Any watercraft with a motor needs to have an engine cut-off device. When properly installed and used, the device will shut the engine down if the operator or passenger should fall overboard. Remember, also, that gasoline engines on boats produce carbon monoxide, which can affect persons swimming at the rear of the vessel and those sitting along the platform.

And, if you are using a paddleboard or similar device, remember to always make sure the safety leash is properly attached to your ankle or calf. Boaters and anglers should enter this season with a positive attitude toward safety. By taking some simple precautions, the recreation season can be safe and pleasurable for area residents


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