Boating safety emphasized as summer approaches
Two local companies teamed up Thursday to increase the effectiveness of an annual boating safety program.
Wal-Mart and Alcoa have partnered to provide about 50 life jackets at public lake access points on High Rock, Badin, Falls and Tuckertown lakes. The jackets will be available for boaters and swimmers without proper equipment of their own.
Warning signs around the lakes have also been amended. They now feature English and Spanish warnings to better protect boaters.
Also new this year is Zeb, the Water Safety Pig, who is “hog wild for water safety.” Zeb was met with laughter by law enforcement officers at the unveiling.
The initiative is well timed: With summer closing in, authorities must prepare for the worst because North Carolina is ranked 8th nationally for number of boating fatalities.
There were 19 fatalities in 2007, down slightly from 22 in 2006. N.C. also ranks 9th for non-fatal boating accidents.
“That’s two top-tens we don’t want to be on,” said Alcoa Technical Manager Mark Gross.
It’s illegal to operate or ride watercraft without a life preserver, but only children under 13 must wear them. Lynnwood Butler from the Stanly County Sheriff’s Office explained that many adults stow vests where they can’t be quickly accessed.
Butler said in 2008 a family lost a father and husband while boating on Father’s Day. The accident could have been prevented by life jackets. He also reminded people that citations can be issued to boaters who keep vests in unreachable places.
Alan Griffin, emergency services coordinator for Montgomery County, said many people drown by swimming without a personal flotation device.
“People come to swim, they don’t think about life jackets,” he said. “There’s one life saved and you wouldn’t even know it’s been saved.”
Wal-Mart donated life jackets from its store stock. The items cost about $8 each, so the total cost reached around $500. Total cost for staging the safety kick off wasn’t released, however, Alcoa likely footed the bill. The company pays for local law enforcement to patrol the lakes pursuant to their contract with local governments.