The message of this week's editorial is clear - drinking and boating do not mix. Many who read this might doubt that statement, because it's hard to imagine a trip to the lake without popping the top on a beer and hitting the water. Alcohol is often associated with a day at the lake, but it's essential that local lake-goers realize that drinking and operating a watercraft are a dangerous combination.
This week, the Missouri State Highway Patrol issued a press release concerning the record number of fatalities that have already occurred this summer at Lake of the Ozarks. All seven of the fatalities involved alcohol. "The tragic thing about all these deaths is that most, if not all, of them could have been prevented had those involved worn life jackets and abstained from alcohol consumption," said Colonel Rad Talburt.
Although boating while intoxicated is a continuing problem on area lakes, another danger is swimming after consuming alcohol. Alcohol consumption greatly increases a person's chance of drowning when swimming. According to the Patrol, the subtle and complex mixture of mental and motor functions required to swim or walk along a swaying dock makes these activities more likely to be affected by even low doses of alcohol.
Lake of the Ozarks is a busier lake than Table Rock but the fatalities that occurred there were not a result of heavy lake traffic. Instead, these fatalities were a result of impaired judgment, which could easily occur on our more peaceful lake if area residents aren't careful to avoid similar circumstances.
The Water Patrol's recommendations for a safer boating and lake experience are simple, and we agree with them.
1. Don't consume alcohol if you will be operating a watercraft or swimming.
2. If you choose to consume alcohol around the water, wear a life jacket.
3. If you are with others who choose to consume alcohol around the water, ask them to wear a life jacket and make sure they don't try to operate a boat or personal watercraft.
These guidelines aren't difficult to remember and could save a life. We hope everyone has the opportunity to enjoy Barry County's proximity to many of the most beautiful recreational waterways in the state - we just hope you'll enjoy them in a safe and reasonable manner.