Wednesday, June 15, 2005
Summer More Fun Without Accidents
Summer water activities more enjoyable without accidents By COLLEEN MARTIN, The Daily Sentinel Wednesday, June 15, 2005 Swimmers and boaters can have fun in the sun this summer by taking precautions to prevent water-related accidents and by practicing water safety. "One of the most important things is to never swim alone," Glynn Wells, aquatic director for the city of Nacogdoches, said. "Even adults need someone there to help them, if something happens. When you are boating or doing other water activities, always wear a life jacket, and make sure that it is Coast Guard approved." Wells said people should always try to swim in an area where there are lifeguards, and children should be enrolled in swimming lessons as at a young age. "The city pool offers an American Red Cross ‘Learn to Swim Program,'" he said. "There are group lessons for children 6 and up, a 4- and 5-year-old program and lessons for babies from 5:30 to 6 p.m. The lessons cost $40 for two weeks.” The pool has three, two-week sessions over the summer. Times for children 6 and up are from 8:15 a.m. to 8:55 a.m.; 9 a.m. to 9:40 a.m.; 9:45 a.m. to 10:25 a.m.; and 10:30 to 11 a.m. Classes for 4- and 5-year-olds are from 11:05 a.m. to 11:35 a.m. and 11:40 a.m. to 12:10 p.m., and lessons for babies are from 5:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. There are two more sessions being offered this summer, with plenty of room available. Another way to keep children safe at the pool is knowing the pool rules, according to Wells. "The rules are there for their safety, and it makes the pool more enjoyable to others," he said. Water safety is also important when boating or using personal watercraft, according to Capt. Donnie Puckett, game warden for Texas Parks and Wildlife. "Eighty-five percent of all water fatalities happened when people were not wearing a life jacket, and half of all boating accidents are alcohol-related," Puckett said. "If you insist on drinking alcohol while on the water, have a designated driver." Fishermen and recreational boaters can enroll in a boater education course that teaches safety and rules of the water. Puckett suggested going online to BoatTexas.com, ordering the materials and taking the course at home. Game wardens and other peace officers may stop, board and inspect any vessel to determine compliance with safety provisions. Puckett said he has a check-list he goes through when he stops any boat. Among the check-list items are: accessible life jackets for everyone on board; a throwable life-preserver, if the boat is over 16 feet; and that all children under the age of 13 are wearing a life vest while under way. "It is a safety issue," he said. "Our intent is genuine, it is not about seeing how many tickets we can write." There are preventative measures boaters can take to ensure their safety and the safety o others. "One of the most important things to remember is to watch the weather," Puckett said. "Rough waters cause many fatalities at Lake Nacogdoches, Toledo Bend and Rayburn lakes every year. We want everybody to have a good time and return home in the same condition as when they left." According to Puckett, there are a half million registered boats in Texas, which is causing the waterways to become more congested. "It is our obligation to provide the people of Texas with safe waterways," he said. There were 209 boat-related accidents last year, 35 ending in fatalities. A complete outline of the rules and requirements for boating and boating safety tips are available at the Texas Department of Wildlife Website at http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us, and for more information about swimming lessons for children, call the Maroney Pool at (936) 569-8305.