By Tracy RobillardJuly 1, 2014
SAVANNAH, Ga. - Independence Day is one of the busiest boating days of the year at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Savannah River lakes-and with higher volumes of visitors comes a higher risk for accidents.
"Everyone is seeking ways to cool off, and many are dying to get back on the lake-but for some the dying part is literal," said Joe Melton, who oversees the Corps' water safety program for lakes Hartwell, Richard B. Russell and J. Strom Thurmond.
Here are three simple tips that can prevent injuries and save lives at the lake:
1. Wear a life jacket. More than 95 percent of people who drowned on Corps lakes were not wearing one. Swimming, falling off a dock, or falling off a boat are all common actions that lead to drowning-but drowning could be prevented in most cases if the victim simply had worn a life jacket. Visitors can borrow a life jacket at life jacket loaner boards or by asking a park ranger or park attendant.
2. Don't swim out to buoys. Buoys float-you don't. Many people commonly underestimate swimming distances, so landmarks such as buoys may appear closer than they actually are. Swimming in open water is dangerous due to unseen underwater hazards such as tree stumps, rocks and drop-offs. Not only is it unsafe to swim to buoys, but hanging on buoys is illegal and could result in a fine. The best place to swim is in a designated swimming area.
3. Know how to operate your boat properly. Knowing the 'rules of the road' with navigating and operating your boat or personal water craft properly are essential to maintain a safe environment on the lake. Take a safe boating course (most are free), stay up-to-date on boating regulations, and operate your water craft responsibly.
For more information on boating safety, visit the National Safe Boating Council website at www.safeboatingcampaign.com