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Exercise caution on the water

It’s not yet officially summer, but with the end of a long school year finally here and temperatures hitting the 90s, a lot of folks are planning getaways to area lakes to enjoy boating, swimming or fishing.

A family outing or a weekend trip with friends can be a lot of fun, but if you plan to go out on the water, be sure to exercise plenty of caution.

And if you plan to go into the water — to wade or swim from shore or from the deck of a boat — remember to let everyone in your group know where you are at all times and what you plan to do.

It’s also a good idea to wear a life jacket, even if you are a good swimmer — don’t let overconfidence convince you otherwise.

Remember that swimming in a lake is a lot different than taking a dip in your backyard pool, and wind, waves, uneven footing and varying depths can be dangerous.

Never swim alone, and always proceed with care — never dive in if you don’t know how deep the water is and beware of drop-offs, even when wading in what you believe to be shallow water.

Keep a close eye on your friends and family. Kids can be reckless and take chances, so make sure you can see them at all times. That’s also sound advice for the rest of us — even good swimmers can have problems in the water, and many of us may not be as fit and agile as we were when we won that swimming medal back in the day.

While you’re watching out for the younger members of your party, don’t forget to check on more mature family members and friends. Some folks are easily overcome by exertion or heat.

As traffic picks up on area lakes, the dangers increase. In spite of recent rains, many lakes are below capacity, so take care when boating and avoid areas that may have underwater hazards. Be cautious and courteous and operate at a safe speed.

We said it before but it bears repeating — wear a life jacket — the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department folks tell us that most boating fatality victims were not wearing a personal flotation device when found. Make sure that you have a life jacket or flotation device for everyone on your boat, and remember that kids younger than 13 must wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved personal flotation device while underway.

The same rule holds true if you’ll be using a personal water craft. Wear that life jacket at all times, and make sure you understand how the craft operates before climbing aboard. Too many people don’t take the time to learn how to operate these craft, so make sure you know what you’re doing.

A lot of safety guidelines may seem like nothing more than good old-fashioned common sense, but you’d be surprised how many people fail to pack that item when preparing for a trip to the lake. Thoughts of fun in the sun often override the safety lessons we’ve been taught.

The best way to have fun is to make sure that everyone has an enjoyable time at the lake — don’t spoil everyone else’s outing by taking risks or being foolish.

Avoid alcohol. Boating while intoxicated is strictly enforced and carries penalties similar to driving while intoxicated, and the probability of being killed in a boating accident is much higher when alcohol is involved, according to information posted on the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department website.

You can find more information about boating regulations and safety at

Know before you go — take safety guidelines seriously and make sure that everyone in your group does the same.

And remember — we need to watch out for one another out there. It only takes a few seconds for tragedy to strike.