Summer brings countless water activities including boating, jet skiing, swimming...and sometimes drinking alcohol.
Whether we like to admit it or not, many people make drinking a part of these activities, and are unaware of the increased risks. Even one drink can make a difference. Alcohol doesn't follow the normal digestive route; instead it is directly absorbed into the blood stream, altering brain chemistry. This causes impairment in judgment, reaction time, balance, and vision. These critical skills are required for safety in any water activity. After consuming just one standard alcoholic drink--12 ounces of beer, 4 to 5 ounces of wine, or 1 1/2 ounces of liquor--your risks of injury or death increase dramatically. Exposure to noise, vibration, sun, glare and wind can intensify the risks.
Boating or operating any water vessel requires coordination, concentration and attention to detail, just like driving a motor vehicle. In New York, it's illegal to operate a watercraft under the influence of alcohol in public waters.
According to the U.S. Coast Guard, "Alcohol is a major factor in approximately 23 percent of all recreational boating fatalities nationwide." In 2019, 100 deaths occurred in boating accidents that directly involved alcohol. Boat operators are not the only ones at increased risk when alcohol is involved, also consider their passengers.
About two-thirds of annual drowning victims never intended to go into the water. The Centers for Disease Control estimates 3,153 injuries are associated with swimming. Diving is a risky activity itself and mixing it with alcohol is a dangerous combination. Diving accidents result in 5,000 deaths and 8,000 paralyzing spinal cord injuries annually.
During the Critical Days of Summer, it's very important to keep safety in mind. Following these safety tips can reduce the risks of injuries or death:
- Never drink alcohol before operating a boat, jet ski, or other watercraft.
- Learn how to swim. Swimming classes are given in numerous locations in the area.
- Always use the "Wingman Concept" (looking out for or after the safety of those you are with).
- Know how to operate watercraft, including the safety and cut-off switch, etc.
- Know the laws and regulations.
- Always wear a life vest.
Reference: Staff Sgt. Cecillia Cardenas, 81st Medical Operations Squadron, Mississippi, U.S. Coast Guard, CDC
By: Liz Threehouse
Idea Girl Company and HCC Social Media & Marketing