OUR VIEW: Safety awareness year-round pursuit at Lake Lanier

The weekend before the Fourth of July, or in the days leading up to any other time when people will flock to the lake, you'll see articles and editorials like this, reminding people to be safe on the water. But the folks who patrol Lake Lanier will tell you safety is a full-time concern, not just something to be talked about before the Memorial Day or Independence Day rush.

With the upcoming holiday, the focus is again high at Lake Lanier. The Georgia Department of Natural Resources' Wildlife Resources Division will participate in Operation Dry Water from June 28 to 30. The mission of Operation Dry Water is also to bring awareness and education to recreational boaters about the dangers of alcohol and drug use on the water.

Last year's tragic accident that claimed the lives of the Prince brothers brought extra attention to lake safety and also led the passage of a new BUI bill. It also seems to have inspired those who want to safely enjoy the lake to better educate themselves.

According to data from the Coast Guard Auxiliary, that recognition of the importance of being safe on the water has led to an increase in people attending the organization's boat safety classes. Last year, according to the Auxiliary, 160 people attended the group's classes. This year, that number is already at 152 for the class, which covers seven main areas:

-- Know Your Boat

-- Before You Get Underway

-- Navigating the Waterways

-- Operating Your Vessel Safely

-- The Legal Requirements of Boating

-- Boating Emergencies-What To Do

-- Enjoying Water Sports With Your Boat

The increased attendance of these classes shows that the campaign to raise awareness of the need for safety on the lake is working.

"We are very pleased with the increase in number of recreational boaters who are choosing to take our safe boating courses. Coast Guard accident statistics show that 70 percent of boating accidents involve skippers who have never taken a safe boating course," said Roy Crittenden, Public Affairs Officer for Flotilla 29 Lake Lanier. "Our goal is to reduce boating accidents and boating fatalities on Lake Lanier."

Achieving that goal means raising awareness about safety on the lake on all days, not just holidays. Something to keep in mind this upcoming week and the weeks that follow.