Goshen News, Goshen, IN

July 21, 2013

Common sense can prevent lake accidents

— There’s something special about summer in northern Indiana.

Maybe it’s because we spend so much of the year waiting for it to arrive.

That was especially the case this year.

Another reason is the abundance of lakes in the Goshen-area.

Whether it’s Simonton Lake, Lake Wawasee, Cedar Lake, Diamond Lake or any of the dozens of others lakes around, when summertime arrives we northern Hoosiers like to hit the lake.

Some people enjoy tubing or hopping on a Jet Ski. Others just enjoy lounging on a pontoon boat or hanging out at a sandbar. Still others never step foot in the water. The only thing they get wet is their fishing line.

Unfortunately those summer traditions are also accompanied by tragic stories.

And you don’t have to look far for such stories.

A New Paris teenager, Riley Wagner, was seriously injured in a boat crash at Lake Wawasee a couple of weeks ago. Police attributed the crash to mechanical failure.

An Ohio man died earlier this month from injuries he suffered in a swimming mishap at Big Chapman Lake near Warsaw.

Police said he was swimming with friends when he dove head first off a boat, striking his head on a sandbar.

Some mishaps like the one involving Wagner can’t be foreseen. Unfortunately, so many others can.

Enjoying our lakes can be made a lot safer by following some simple rules.

Always know your surroundings. Know where you’re at on the lake and how deep the water is. Also be mindful of others using the lake.

Last year, the Coast Guard counted 4,515 recreational boating accidents. Those accidents resulted in 651 deaths.

And despite requirements for life jackets on boats, the Coast Guard reported that 85 percent of drowning victims in 2012 weren’t wearing life jackets.

A day on the lake is made better for some with a cold beer or cocktail.

Getting behind the wheel of a boat while intoxicated is seen in the same light as getting behind the wheel of a car. Conservation officers patrol local lakes looking for intoxicated drivers. And that fact dictates they will be busy.

In 2012, alcohol was listed as the leading contributing factor in boating-accident deaths. Alcohol was connected to boating deaths 17 percent of the time.

Accident prevention seems simple enough, especially for those who grow up spending their summers on a lake.

Be careful. Wear a life jacket. If you’re of age, drink responsibly. All these warnings seem like platitudes that people shrug off as such.

The numbers indicate people still are ignoring these simple ways to stay safe.

Having fun on the lake and staying safe aren’t mutually exclusive.

Let’s hope those using our local lakes take some responsibility and avoid becoming a statistic.