Enjoying a Safe Holiday

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For many, Memorial Day weekend marks the start of summer activities. Families will get together for picnics and barbecue and spend the day on the lake, but too often, Memorial Day is filled with accidents that could have been avoided with a little effort.

"It's a time when they need to check everything really close. Look at the safety equipment. Check the fuel lines. Just do a really good visual inspection of the boat before they bring it out on the water," said Mark Dean of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Drowning is the second leading cause of accidental death for persons between 15 and 44 years old. Of those, most people never intended to end up in the water. Just by wearing a life jacket, most of them would have survived. A life jacket may ruin a good tan, but think of the alternative. A life jacket is a must.

"The number one way to reduce fatalities on the water is to wear a personal flotation device," Dean said. "PFDs or lifejackets, as they are more commonly known. Most of the people, probably 90 to 95 percent of the people who drown, never intended to go into the water."

Another tip is alcohol and water don't mix. More than half of all drowning fatalities involve alcohol. Just one drink can impair balance, judgment and reaction time. Combine alcohol with the fatigue of hours in the sun, wind and glare on board a boat, and the problems amplify. Don't drink if you plan on being in, on, or around the water.

"Boating, along with the effects of being on the water for prolonged periods in the sunlight, it just compounds the issue of how it affects you and your judgment and coordination on the water," said Dean.

And most importantly, know your boat and the rules of the sea. or lake as the case may be.

The Army Corps of Engineers will be offering a free boating safety course on June 25. It is open to the first 30 people who pre-register. Call 601-626-8431.