Editorial: Summer safety is no accident

  • Posted: Tuesday, May 28, 2013 12:09 a.m.

Memorial Day marks the unofficial start of summer, which means baseball games, backyard barbecues, lazy days at the pool, lake or beach and a host of enjoyable warm-weather pastimes.

It’s also the season when we typically see an increase in accidents related to some of these outdoor activities. We had a sad reminder of that over the Memorial Day weekend when a mother and her young son died after a boat collision at High Rock Lake. Investigators said a ski boat apparently rammed into a pontoon boat, where the mother and son were passengers.

With its mild climate and abundant beaches, rivers and lakes like nearby High Rock Lake and Lake Norman, North Carolina is a prime area for recreational water activities. Those natural attractions are a wonderful resource for residents as well as tourists. Yet with that popularity comes the risk of boating related accidents. In 2012, there were 145 boating accidents in North Carolina and 22 related fatalities, according to federal and state data. That’s comparable to the 25 boating fatalities that occurred in 2011 and the 23 in 2010.

While the High Rock accident remains under investigation, it bears at least one similarity to many other fatal watercraft accidents — it involved a collision between two vessels. That’s the case with the majority of boating accidents, according to N.C. Wildlife officials, and the most common causes for these crashes are operator inattention, congested boating conditions, carelessness or a combination of all three. Too often, alcohol also is a contributing factor.

Along with an increased risk of watercraft collisions, summer also brings an increase in drowning and near-drownings. State health officials hope that this summer has a safer beginning than last year, when the state had at least six accidental drowning deaths between Memorial Day and the end of July.

Safety experts caution that young people face the highest risks of drowning and urge that children never be left unattended around swimming pools, at the lake or beach. According to the N.C. Child Fatality Task Force, 20 of the state’s 37 drowning victims in 2010 were between the ages of 1 and 4. Most of the rest were younger than 17.

As the weather warms up, pools and lakes are a great place to cool off and enjoy sunny summer days. But whether swimming or boating, on the road or at the playground, observe common-sense rules and be aware of potential risks, especially where young children are involved. Enjoy the summer — and stay safe.

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