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Wakulla Times Article-July 2010-- Boating Safety

The top college football teams in the country want to be ranked in the Top 10 poll. The ranking shows how well the teams are doing and add a little prestige to their football programs. But there is one Top 10 poll that no county wants to be in, the state boating accident ranking list.

The most recent statistics compiled for boating accidents are from 2008 and Monroe County tops the state in this dubious distinction. Other counties with lots of boating accidents include second ranked Miami-Dade, third ranked Pinellas, fourth ranked Palm Beach and fifth ranked Broward. The rest of the Top 10 list includes Collier, Bay, Brevard, Lee and Duval counties.

Wakulla County is in the middle of the 2010 boating and swimming season and many area residents have been enjoying the coast for recreational activities. We hope that your summer months will be safe and enjoyable.

Just as drinking and driving don’t mix, alcohol consumption and boating can be a dangerous combination.

Most states define impairment at .10 percent Blood Alcohol Content (B.A.C.). However, even lower levels of blood alcohol may affect a person's balance, vision or judgment. This can be especially dangerous when on the water.

Alcohol impacts an individual's sense of balance. A moment of dizziness or even a misstep may not cause any harm on your patio or in a restaurant, but it can lead to disaster on the water.

Safe boating requires good vision and too much alcohol can seriously restrict your vision. It can create a "tunnel vision" effect, reducing peripheral vision. It can impair your ability to "focus" on objects and it can reduce your night vision, especially for reds and greens, the colors of running lights.

Operating a boat is at least as complicated as driving a car and a boating accident can be just as dangerous as an automobile accident. According to state statistics, fifty percent of all boating fatalities are alcohol related. Operating a boat while intoxicated is illegal and dangerous.

A number of things can influence how alcohol affects you. Drinking on an empty stomach, when you’re tired, tense or on medication can all increase alcohol's effects. How fast you drink and the amount of alcohol in your drink can also affect alcohol's impact.

Cold showers, hot coffee and other "remedies" won't make you sober. Only time will do that. All you can do is wait. Your body can process about one drink in an hour, so pace yourself.

While you are on the water make sure you follow proper safety planning. Everyone, on all types of boats, should wear properly-fitted life jackets, or personal flotation devices (PFD). By wearing a life jacket, you can dramatically decrease your chances of drowning in a boating incident.

Recreational boating—enjoyed by more than 70,000,000 Americans each year—can be a wonderful way to spend time with family and friends. And making boating safety a priority can ensure that it stays fun.

In 2007, 4,586 people were injured and 605 died in boating incidents. Of those who drowned, nine out of 10 were not wearing life jackets.

More than two-thirds (69 percent) of fatal boating incident victims drowned in 2007.

An estimated 427 lives could have been saved in 2007 if all boaters had worn life jackets.

Alcohol use was the leading contributing factor in fatal boating incidents.

Properly fitted life jackets can prevent drowning and should be worn by everyone on any boat, at all times. Coast Guard-approved life jackets are now better looking and more comfortable.

People operating boats can help keep their passengers safe.  Boating education courses teach the regulatory and statutory rules ("Rules of the Road") for safe operation and navigation of recreational boats.

Know your boat's load limit, and don't exceed it. A safe boat is a well-equipped boat. Always carry the necessary safety gear and know how to use it.

Knowing how to swim just makes good sense if you spend time on the water. If you don't know how, learn. However, even good swimmers do not always survive the shock or panic of sudden immersion in cold water.

Don't overdo your boating fun. In three hours of normal boating, the noise, motion, sun, wind and glare can frequently double an individual's reaction time.

There are a few exceptions, but for the most part, anyone born on or after Jan. 1, 1988 who operates a vessel powered by 10 horsepower or more motor must pass an approved boater safety course and have in his/her possession photographic identification and a boating safety education identification card issued by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

May is recognized annually as Boating Safety Month since it is the beginning of some of the heaviest boating activity. Local governments, including Wakulla County, recognize the event with a proclamation.

Whereas, recreational boating continues to grow in popularity and millions of Americans

are choosing this activity as an ideal way to relax with their families;

Whereas, the increasing public participation in this healthy outdoors sport has

emphasized the need for greater attention to courtesy and safety to minimize incidents

which often lead to boating mishaps;

Whereas, a significant number of boaters who lost their lives by drowning would have

had a better chance of surviving had they worn their life jacket;

Whereas, the Flotilla 12 St. Marks and Flotilla 13 Shell Point-District 8 Coastal Region

of the United States Coast Guard Auxiliary supports safe boating and provides safety

programs for the general public which result in our waterways having a safer and almost

accident free record.

Wakulla County Commissioners signed their 2010 proclamation at their meeting on May 17.

 

Know Your Zone