Jeff Mlekush, coordinator of safety operations
The blazing heat of the Oklahoma summers often drives us to the water. Luckily, we have many different lakes to help us beat the heat. Of course, the best way to enjoy the lake is with a boat. While boats can provide hours of fun in the sun, they can also be very dangerous if you aren’t careful.
The latest information from the U.S. Coast Guard shows an alarming upward trend in accidents and fatalities while on the water.
- In 2012, 4,515 recreational boating accidents caused 651 deaths, 3,000 injuries and approximately $38 million of damage.
- The fatality rate was 5.4 deaths per 100,000 registered recreational vessels.
- 71 percent of all fatal boating accident victims drowned. Of those, 85 percent were not wearing a life jacket.
Operator inattention, improper lookout, operator inexperience, excessive speed and machinery failure rank as the top five primary contributing factors in boating accidents. Safety on Oklahoma waterways is the responsibility of everyone. Here are a few boating safety tips to keep in mind:
- No matter what activity you have planned – boating, fishing sailing, etc. – always remember to wear a life jacket every time you are on the water. Make sure your life jacket is U.S. Coast Guard-approved and fits properly. Double-check that your life jacket is appropriate for your favorite boating activities.
- Adult life jackets do not work for children. If you are boating with children, make sure they are wearing properly fitted, child-sized life jackets. Do not buy a life jacket for your child to “grow into.”
- Operator errors account for 70 percent of boating accidents. Look into taking a safety course to brush up on boating instructions.
- Learn how to perform a vessel safety check before taking to the water, which will help you navigate should you encounter problem situations. All vessels using flammable liquid as fuel are required to have the proper type, size and number of fire extinguishers on board.
- Wear clothes that will help keep you and your passengers cool and always bring plenty of cool non-alcoholic drinks, food and snacks.
- The use of alcohol is involved in about a third of all recreational boating fatalities.
Boating sober is the safest way to enjoy the water.
Pools, lakes, ponds and beaches are summer fun and cool relief from hot weather. But water also can be dangerous for kids if parents do not take the proper precautions. Not including boating incidents, on average about nine people die from drowning every day in the United States, according to Injury Facts 2017 the annual statistical report on unintentional injuries produced by NSC. While drowning is more common for children 5 and younger, it is the second leading cause of death for people ages 5-24 (National Safety Council).
Oklahoma Facts to think about:
- Drowning is the leading cause of death for Oklahoma children aged 1—4.
- Over half of drownings or near-drownings among children less than 5 years of age occur in home swimming pools and nearly one-quarter occur in bathtubs.
- Young children do not understand the consequences of falling into water and cannot call for help once they are in the water. (Oklahoma State Department of Health)
- Learn child and infant CPR!
- Never leave a child unsupervised, not even for a minute.
- Swimming lessons for children greatly reduce drowning risk.
- Empty all buckets and containers after use. Store them upside down. Children can drown in only a few inches of water.
- Swimming in open water is not the same as in a pool. Be aware of currents, undertow, and weather. Wear a properly approved life jacket.
- Install a four-sided isolation fence, with self-closing and self-latching gates, around backyard swimming pools.
- Swimming noodles and water wings are not safety devices—they should never be used in place of life jackets.