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Keep Winter Boating Exhilarating, Not Dangerous

Boating during the winter months can still be great fun.  But it’s still important to remember the need to follow safety protocols at all times due to the special dangers involved in boating during this time of year.

As the Christmas break begins, families head out to lakes across the state for their holidays.  During this time, Lake Lanier and Lake Oconee, as well as other local boating communities, hold special holiday events that attract a number of people to the water.  Many of these boaters will be new to the activity, thereby increasing the risk of negligent or dangerous boating practices.  There is also the increased risk of people boating while intoxicated during the holidays.  As with drunk driving in vehicles, drunk boating can also result in serious accidents, oftentimes resulting in fatal injuries.

While on the water, you should always adhere to the boating safety rules and regulations posted at the lake to avoid being injured a boating accident.  The ice-cold water can pose special safety concerns that are not as present during the warmer months.  These special dangers can threaten your life and the lives and safety of your loved ones.

According to the National Safety Council, there are three main types of boating accidents –falls overboard, capsizing, and collisions with another boat. All of these accidents can mean that one or more persons are thrown into the ice-cold water. When a person is in water that is colder than 70 degrees for more than a few minutes, hypothermia can quickly set in. Symptoms of hypothermia can include uncontrollable shivering and body tremors. Blood circulation in the body slows down. The pulse also slows down. The person may feel drowsy, weak or low in energy, and may not be able to coordinate his body movements effectively.  Confusion and disorientation can set in, and finally the person may lose consciousness, drown and die.

People should also be aware that cold water can actually be deadlier than cold air. The body, according to the Personal Flotation Device Manufacturers’ Association, can cool down up to 25 times faster in cold water than in cold air.   Just because you have been boating comfortably in winter conditions does not mean that your body is prepared to handle the sudden shock of being immersed in water that is the same temperature.

When a person falls into icy cold water, it is difficult for him to control his breathing. A person who fall overboard in cold water will generally tend to take in large mouthfuls of water – a fatal mistake that increases his or her risk of drowning. The sudden shock of the cold water can also trigger hyperventilation, causing even more gulping of water, and increasing the risk of drowning further.

While boating this winter, follow all safety rules. All occupants on your boat must be wearing well-fitted life jackets. That especially applies to all the children on your boat. It does not matter if you’re off for a short sail or a longer excursion. Life jackets should be and are always mandatory.

Layering your winter clothing is also a good idea. Avoid wearing clothes made of cotton as the material will draw water close to the skin.  Instead, wear clothes made of synthetic fabrics as the first layer.  This way, even if you do fall in the water, the synthetic material will draw water away from your skin.  Finally, you should make sure that the boat is stocked with hot beverages to keep your guests warm and stabilize their body temperature if needed.

Following these tips can help ensure a fun and enjoyable boating trip this holiday.

The Atlanta boating accident lawyers at the Katz Law Firm represent persons injured in boating accidents across Georgia. If you have been injured in a boat accident as a result of another’s negligence, call an attorney at our firm and discuss your legal rights.