May 24, 2005
Hospital urges parents, children to play it safe on the water this summer
By Susan Christensen
Health and Research News Service
JACKSON, Miss.—Physicians at Methodist Rehabilitation Center want to remind boaters and swimmers to think first about safety around water this summer.
“Each year, about 1,000 diving-related injuries occur,” said Dr. Rahul Vohra, medical director at Methodist Rehab. “This accounts for 10 percent of all spinal cord injuries and 60 percent of all recreational injuries.”
Dr. Vohra recommends always checking the water for a minimum depth of ten feet before diving or jumping in and to always be aware of no diving or no swimming signs.
“If there is a no diving sign it means the water is not safe for a head first entry. Check the water for hidden rocks before entering the water feet first,” he said.
Dr. Vohra says it is important to know your limits and skills. “Don’t try to keep up with friends. And always wear a life jacket and stay close to shore.”
Lauren Fairburn, coordinator of Think First, Methodist Rehab’s statewide safety and injury prevention program, says there are other safety concerns to consider around water, such as drowning prevention and boating safety.
“Drowning is the second leading cause of injury-related death for children ages 14 and under,” said Fairburn. “Don’t swim alone and never leave a child unattended in or around water.”
Fairburn says that children less than a year old most often drown in bathtubs, toilets or buckets. Children ages one to four usually drown in swimming pools, hot tubs and spas and children ages five to fourteen tend to drown in swimming pools, lakes or rivers.
“Children can drown in as little as one inch of water in a matter of seconds,” says Fairburn. “Install a fence around a pool or spa and make sure children who cannot swim wear life jackets.”
Fairburn also recommends taking swim lessons and learning CPR in case of an emergency.
Ross Barnett Reservoir Patrol Chief James Stepp says that the most common boating accidents result from reckless operation or people who have drowned from not wearing life vests.
“Often boats get too close to other boats, travel too fast, jump wakes and circle other boats too closely.”
Another problem on the state’s lakes and rivers is boating while intoxicated.
“People need to remember that operating a boat while intoxicated is a criminal offense punishable by fine, imprisonment or loss of their privilege to operate a boat,” said Stepp. “And in Mississippi a blood alcohol level of .08 percent or greater indicates intoxication.”
Other boating rules and regulations include:
- All boats must have a horn that works properly.
- Boats with an enclosed gas tank are required to have a fire extinguisher.
- Boats 16-feet or longer must have one wearable life jacket for each person on board and one throw-able life jacket.
- All water skiers, operators and passengers of Waverunners and Jet Skis must wear a life jacket.
- While pulling a water-skier, an observer who is not the boat’s operator, is required. The observer must be age 10 or older.
- Children under age 12 must wear an approved life jacket when aboard a boat. The boat must be anchored or moored before children may remove their life jackets.
- Children under age 12 are not allowed to operate a boat unless accompanied by an adult who is 21 or older and who has taken a boating safety course. Proof of completion of the course must be carried onboard while the boat is operating.
- Anyone born after June 30, 1980 must successfully complete an approved boating safety course prior to operating any motorized vessel and have proof of course completion.
“Traumatic injuries peak during the summer months when children are out of school and aren’t supervised as much,” said Dr. Vohra. “The more time they spend outdoors increases their risk of injury, especially if they aren’t protected with the appropriate safety gear and supervision.”