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Have fun, but exercise caution

Water sports and summer go hand-in-hand. Boating, swimming, fishing and other water-related activities are especially popular in our area because of our rivers, lakes and streams here in the Black Belt region.

But, with fun comes responsibility. The Centers for Disease Control reported in 2007 that from 2003-04, the last year available, more than 3,900 people died nationwide from drowning. That figure made up 2.3 percent of the numbers of injury deaths in the nation. In 2005 the figure dropped to 72 drowning deaths.

Following basic safety rules can cut back on the incidences of drowning deaths. Buddy up, meaning always swim with a partner, every time. Whether you’re in a backyard pool or a lake, even experienced swimmers can become tired or get muscle cramps, which might make it difficult to get out of the water.

Check with the Selma-Dallas County YMCA and see when they have swim classes scheduled; get a refresher course or learn some life-saving technique, such as CPR and rescue techniques.

Remember that alcohol and water never mix. Alcohol is involved in numerous water-related injuries and up to half of all water-related deaths. Those highest at risk, according to the American Red Cross? Teenage guys.

The U.S. Coast Guard also warns people about a condition called boater’s fatigue, which means wind, noise, heat and vibration of the boat all combine to wear you down while on the water. Water and weather can be unpredictable. Carry a Coast Guard-approved life jacket; wear it. It’s like wearing a helmet while biking. It might take a few minutes to get used to it, but it can be a lifesaver.

Have fun. Be responsible this summer.