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It’s summertime. The kids are out of school and the heat swelters – the lake is the perfect way to cool down and get some R&R. Whether you’re enjoying a week-long family vacation out of town or just a quick afternoon on the boat, it’s important to practice basic boating safety.

In 2008, over 3,330 people reported injuries due to boating accidents. And more than 700 died from drowning and other boating-related injuries like trauma, hypothermia and carbon monoxide poisoning. Of those who drowned, 90 percent were not wearing life jackets.

A recent boating tragedy hit Georgia lakes this summer when a 15-year-old Woodstock girl was hit by a boat while tubing on Lake Lanier. The girl and her friend fell off the tube just as another boat approached. It swerved to avoid one girl but hit the other. The girl passed away several days later from serious brain trauma.

While this boating-related death was not due to lack of a life jacket, it is a reminder that tragic accidents can happen anytime you’re on a lake with motorized vehicles. Governor Sonny Perdue recently pointed out that the vast majority of boating-related accidents “are brought about by human error or poor judgment rather than the boat, equipment or environmental factors.”

Stay Alive: “Wear It!”

The U.S. Coast Guard recommends the following boating safety tips anytime you’re on the water:

  • Check the local weather forecast. Boating or swimming in thunderstorms or strong wind conditions are dangerous.
  • Wear it! Use properly fitted Coast Guard-approved life jackets at all times while on a boat – even if the boat is anchored or moored.
  • Stay sober. Alcohol use affects judgment, vision, and coordination, so do not drink while on the lake. Reports suggest that alcohol is a contributing factor in 20 percent of boating fatalities.
  • Know the nautical “rules of the road.” Driving a boat is not like driving a car. Consider taking a safety course. Boating education courses teach safe operation and navigation of recreational boats.
  • Be aware of the risk of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning. You don’t have to be on a boat to be injured by carbon monoxide – boaters have died from exposure on swim platforms and other areas where exhaust is emitted. Ensure proper ventilation and make sure equipment is properly installed and maintained.

Whether you are driving the boat, riding on it or just swimming near one, keep water and boat safety tips in mind to stay safe, alive and injury-free.

This is the second post in our series on summer safety tips. Our first post was on fireworks safety. Please check back for our next post on swimming pool safety.