Last Modified: Sunday, May 20, 2012 7:40 PM
With Memorial Day quickly approaching and temperatures steadily rising, the temptation to hit Southwest Louisiana’s glorious waterways are getting harder to fight. This area boasts some of the best waterways for boating, fishing, sailing and kayaking in the state.
But before you start unpacking the fishing gear and dusting off the water skis, consider this: Louisiana ranks sixth in the nation for boating fatalities.
Every year across this state, people drown because of carelessness, recklessness and ignorance on the part of the boating public. About 88 percent of drowning victims in recreational boating accidents were not wearing a life jacket, the Coast Guard said.
With this in mind, it is no coincidence that the U.S. Coast Guard and others involved with boater safety made “Wear It” the theme of National Safe Boating Week, which runs through May 25.
“A life jacket can’t save your life unless you wear it,” said John Johnson, executive director of the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators. “Today’s life jackets are comfortable, stylish and easy to wear. The old-fashioned, bulky orange life jacket most people are used to has been replaced with innovative new options, including the new inflatable styles.
“There are even life jackets for our four-legged friends,” he added.
Life jackets are now lighter, less obtrusive and more attractive. The new inflatable life jackets allow the mobility and flexibility for activities like boating, fishing, paddling or hunting and are much cooler in warmer weather. All are designed to be more comfortable and wearable than the traditional life jacket.
There really is no excuse for not wearing one.
“Make sure your time on the water with family and friends is filled with splashes and smiles,” Chambers said. “No matter the water activity or life jacket style chosen, and always remember to wear it.”
Here are some other tips to keep in mind:
• Stay sober in your boat. An operator with a blood-alcohol content above 0.10 — equivalent to 5 beers in one hour for the average 180-pound male — is 10 times more likely to die in a boating accident than an operator with zero blood alcohol.
• Boaters should remember that driving their boats on the water is not like driving on the open road in a car. It’s considered more dangerous since the waterways are not regulated like the roads are.
• Boaters are responsible for any damages caused by their wakes and causing any boats to capsize.
Be safe on the water. We urge boaters to take extra precautions — and wear their life jackets — while boating on Lake Charles, Prien Lake, the Calcasieu River and other local waterways.
This editorial was written by a member of the American Press Editorial Board. Its content reflects the collaborative opinion of the Board, whose members include Bobby Dower, Ken Stickney, Jim Beam, Dennis Spears, Crystal Stevenson and Donna Price.