By: Edward B. Mulligan V, Attorney
Memorial Day marks the beginning of summer and summer in Indiana brings hot weather. What is the best way to combat the hot weather? The pool, the lake, and the boat! Unfortunately, these popular summer options are not without risk. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports approximately 10 people die every day from unintentional drowning. Additionally, a 2013 U.S. Coast Guard report stated 77% of fatal boating accident victims drowned. And 84% of those drowning victims were not wearing life jackets.
Sadly, just last week a University of Indianapolis student drowned in Morse Reservoir while being pulled behind a boat on a tube. Another open water tragedy happened this past weekend in Kosciusko County, Indiana. Two seventeen year old boys reportedly went swimming at night and drowned in a private pond. Reports suggest that none of these victims were wearing life jackets.
In all likelihood, these tragedies were avoidable. Water safety is everyone’s responsibility and must be priority. Here are a few simple tips to keep you safe as you head out to enjoy the water this summer.
- Take a buddy. Whether swimming at the pool or the beach, it’s always important to go with someone else. This is especially true for children, who require constant adult supervision. The same goes for boating and water sports. If you are water skiing or tubing make sure you have enough people with you to comply with state law, which requires at least a driver and a spotter to be in the boat.
- Wear a life jacket. Weak swimmers and children should always wear a life jacket when swimming at the pool in the lake and while passengers on a boat. Although Indiana law does not require it, everyone, at a minimum and regardless of swimming ability, should wear a life jacket when boating alone or while participating in water sports (water skiing, tubing, etc.) behind a boat.
- Know the conditions and your limits. If you plan to swim, know the conditions. How deep is the water? Are there any hazards under the water that you should be aware of? If you don’t know, don’t dive…jump. Either way, make sure the surface that you’re jumping or diving from is dry so you don’t slip. And if you’re a weak or inexperienced swimmer or boater, be conservative with your choices about where you swim and what activities you engage in.
- Avoid after-hours swimming and boating. The safest time to go to the pool or the beach is during the day when there are other people around, including lifeguards. The same goes for boating. Once the pool closes or dusk approaches, all water-related activities become more dangerous because it becomes far more difficult to locate someone in distress.
- Avoid alcohol. While drinking on the weekend and enjoying the pool, beach, or boat are tempting, alcohol and water don’t mix. We all know that alcohol inhibits your motor skills and your judgment and may be the difference between life and death. If you do choose to drink, do not drive a boat and stay out of the water until after you have sobered up. And if you do decide to partake, make sure you are with someone who is not drinking.