Staying safe on the lake

By: Stephanie Brletic Email
By: Stephanie Brletic Email

LAKE TEXOMA, TX - It's Memorial Day weekend which means holiday plans; plans that often include time at the lake. Some local organizations helped boaters get ready for the season on Saturday.

The Army Corps of Engineers, Red Cross, US Coast Guard and park officials all pitched in to help safely kick off the summer boating season. Organizers of Saturday's event say prevention is the key to safety, but too many people don't take proper precautions and not taking simple steps can sometimes lead to fatality.

"It doesn't just affect the person it happens to, it involves their family, anyone that's involved in the recovery, the lake patrol, Texas Wildlife and Parks, Search and Rescue, it takes a little piece of you each time," says Park Ranger Dwaine McBee.

Perhaps the most important step you can take to keep everyone safe on your boat is to make sure everyone, including yourself, is wearing a life jacket. Even though it's required that there is a life-jacket for each person on board, it's not required for people over 12 years old to wear them.

"We'd like everyone to get into the habit of if you'll click that life jacket when you get in your boat, just like you click a seatbelt when you get into a car," says McBee.

We talked to one man who says even though he requires his children to wear life-jackets; he doesn't wear them and has a reason that officials say is all too common; it’s uncomfortable.

"We have adult life jackets that can be worn if it's rough weather, things like that, if it gets rough out there, but normally we just don't,” says long time boater Chris Srader. “We don't wear them everyday and they're making them more comfortable, so we may end up wearing them."

Officials say there's proof that lifejackets work because while personal watercraft, like wave-runners, account for 30 percent of recreational water accidents, they only account for 10 percent of the fatalities. Officials say it’s because it's required to wear a life-jacket while operating personal watercraft. But on boats, people often aren't wearing jackets and aren't prepared for the unexpected.

"Normally they're ejected from the boat and they don't have time to reach under the seat, un-wrap a life-jacket from a plastic bag and put it on," says Coast Guard member James Montgomery.

Officials say wearing a life-jacket can help keep a trip to the emergency room out of your holiday weekend plans because it's the easiest way to keep everyone on-board safe. Another thing to remember this Memorial Day is that drinking and driving isn't just illegal on land so officials say to be sure to have a designated driver.

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