WHAT OTHERS SAY: As drownings spike in state, swimmers should know limits

Tuesday, July 16, 2013 | 7:42 p.m. CDT

Missouri waterways, a source of recreation during summer months, also are taking a toll in treachery.

Last week, state officials reported 24 drownings so far this year, four more than all of last year. Most of the drownings have occurred in lakes and man-made ponds, not in swimming pools.

The Missouri State Highway Patrol, which includes the Water Patrol division, offers a number of recommendations, which are summed up in the phrase: “As a swimmer, know your limits.”

One of those limits is stamina.

Swimming is a demanding activity and the patrol reminds that exhaustion is a primary concern.

“Avoid being ‘too,’” the patrol warns, which includes, “too tired, too drunk, too much sun, too far from safety, too much strenuous activity.”

Intoxication all too frequently is a contributing factor in drownings. Not only does alcohol impair judgment — remember “know your limit” — it also affects coordination, balance and swimming skills.

Three important safety recommendations are:

  • Know your surroundings. Be aware of drop-offs, currents and floating debris. Before jumping into water from a bluff, bridge or rope swing, determine whether depth is sufficient and the water is free of submerged logs or other debris. What you can’t see can hurt you.
  • Have a swim buddy. Swimmers should borrow a common practice among SCUBA divers never to dive alone. A buddy can respond if the partner encounters trouble. Remember also that children always should be supervised when in or near water.
  • Wear a life jacket. Accidents not only can happen, they can happen to you. A life jacket may provide vital time to be rescued if you become exhausted, injured or rendered unconscious.

Water sports and recreation are intended to be enjoyable, but the line separating pleasure from peril is often muddy.

The clearest way to prevent drowning is to know your limits, know your surroundings and know a life jacket can save you if you become incapacitated.

Copyright, Jefferson City News-Tribune. Reprinted with permission.

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