Use caution on the water

Beautiful weather, relaxing waves and time away from work can make you feel like you haven't a care in the world. But for the large number of folks headed to Lake Lanier for Memorial Day weekend, it shouldn't be a time to forget about the importance of safety on the water.

A pair of drowning deaths over Mother's Day weekend provided a grim reminder of that. Both men who died were in areas not designated for swimming. Respecting the rules of the lake is always important, but even more so when it is extra crowded.

"Of course, on a big weekend if you're going to be on a boat you need to use extreme caution with all the other boats on the lake," said Ben Johnson, spokesman for the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. "And I can't stress this enough - wear life jackets."

National Safe Boating Week is this week, an effort to draw more attention to boat safety heading into the holiday weekend. Statewide, 59 people drowned last year and 19 others died in boating related accidents.

At Lake Lanier, the DNR responded to seven drownings and 43 boating accidents last year and three drownings and 44 accidents the year before. The DNR has already responded to three drownings at Lake Lanier this year.

"It can be deceptively difficult to swim across what looks like a short distance," Johnson said. "We definitely recommend for swimmers to wear life vests."

The DNR recomments taking a boating safety course, and also offers the following tips:

• Never swim alone

• Don't mix alcohol or drugs with boating or swimming

• Never let children boat or swim unsupervised

• Keep life jackets accessible

• Always be aware of the possibilities of hidden dangers, such as undewater obstacles

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