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Commission Offers Tips for Enjoying Water Safely

LINCOLN – Hot summer temperatures can bring people to the water in droves. The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission urges everyone enjoying a day on the water to do so safely.

Outdoor recreation in Nebraska is safe. Spending time outdoors or at any of the state’s family-friendly state park areas is a great way to make memories. Game and Parks has the following reminders for safety on the water:

Avoid Alcohol – Whether boating, swimming or tubing, alcohol consumption should be avoided. It causes dehydration and impairs judgment. Boating Under the Influence is a criminal violation on the same level as Driving Under the Influence in a car and is enforced actively in Nebraska.

Wear a Life Jacket – Most boating fatalities involve a person falling from or being ejected from a boat. While a life jacket is required to be readily accessible for most in a boat, there usually is no warning before it is needed. Children under age 13 and anybody on a personal watercraft are required by law to wear a United States Coast Guard-approved personal flotation device. People being towed by a boat on skis, a tube, or other similar device also must wear their life jacket. In addition, consider a life jacket for young children swimming at a beach.

Have All Required Safety Equipment on Boat – Life jackets, throw cushions, fire extinguishers, and bailing devices are required on most boats. For a list of requirements (rules vary based on size and style of boat), check out the 2015 Boating Guide available statewide and at OutdoorNebraska.org/boating.

Be Wary of Surroundings – Many boat collisions occur because people do not keep an eye on what is going on around them, or boats get too close to each other when going too fast. The best boat operators constantly are looking around for other boats, swimmers, stumps and other hazards. This is especially true for operators of personal watercraft or other high-speed vessels. Speeds in excess of 5 mph are prohibited if within 30 yards of any other vessel, swimming area or dock.

Take a Boating Safety Course – Motorboat operators must be at least 14 years of age to operate a motorboat or personal watercraft. Any operator born after Dec. 31, 1985 must have successfully completed the Nebraska boating safety course and be in possession of a valid certificate. Visit OutdoorNebraska.org/boating to find a course.

Swimming – If possible, swim at a state park pool, which has lifeguards on duty. The following state parks have pools: Niobrara, Platte River, Ponca, Chadron, Eugene T. Mahoney, and Fort Robinson. Game and Parks does not have lifeguards at lakes it owns. Swim only in designated areas of those lakes. Also swim with a friend. It is safer and more fun.

On a River – If tubing or paddling a river, life jackets do not have to be worn, but they must be accessible. Be wary of deep holes in rivers, underwater hazards and obstructions in the water. Do not litter. Pack out what you pack in with you. Do not trespass.

Watch the Weather – Get off the water immediately if lightning is in the area or a storm is approaching.

About Jerry Kane

Jerry Kane is the news manager with the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission. He can be contacted at jerry.kane@nebraska.gov or 402-471-5008.

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