May 23, 2024 - Water

How to stay safe during Memorial Day weekend (and all summer)

Illustration of a life preserver shaped like a caution symbol floating in water

Illustration: Natalie Peeples/Axios

Memorial Day weekend, the unofficial start of summer, means sunshine, pools, lakes — and all kinds of safety considerations.

State of play: Arkansas had 61 boating accidents in 2023 and nine related deaths, according to the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission.

What they're saying: "It's almost the same every year: people not wearing their life jackets," Stephanie Weatherington, the commission's boating law administrator, said in a statement.

  • "Granted, if they are over 12, they don't have to wear one, but it's not the kids that are drowning. It's the adults. They get in a boat accident, they don't have a life jacket and they drown."
  • Just like driving a car, boat operators should not drink alcohol or drive excessively fast. The commission also recommends letting someone onshore know the trip itinerary, including operator and passenger information plus boat type and registration.

Threat level: Drowning is the leading cause of death of children ages 1-4, according to the CDC.

  • Arkansas had the sixth-highest drowning death rate in the country from 2018 to 2021, with 1.88 deaths per 100,000 people.

Key things to keep in mind to prevent drowning, according to the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture, include:

  • Knowing how to swim properly, so consider swimming lessons for yourself and the kids.
  • Wearing life jackets. Don't rely on floating pool toys.
  • Not swimming alone.
  • Learning CPR.
  • Paying attention to the weather to avoid swimming during flash floods or thunderstorms.
  • Not trying to hold your breath for long periods of time under water. You can pass out and drown. Drownings caused by shallow water blackout can cause death faster than regular drownings.

Zoom out: Don't forget to wear sunscreen, drink plenty of water and know the signs of serious heat related illness like heat stroke.

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