Keep Memorial Day safe and memorable


Memorial Day weekend marks the traditional start to summer fun — and also, tragically, to preventable summer injuries and fatalities.

People are driving more and spending more time on the water. Various state and local agencies will be stepping up law enforcement efforts to help keep everyone safe.

Through the Memorial Day weekend, law enforcement officers throughout Texas and the nation will conduct the annual "Click It or Ticket" effort to remind people to buckle their seat belts.

"Buckling up tilts the odds of surviving a serious traffic crash by almost 50 percent," said Carol Rawson, director of TxDOT Traffic Operations Division.

According to the Texas Transportation Institute, the percentage of Texas citizens using seat belts has gone from 76 percent in 2001 to almost 94 percent today. As a result, experts at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) report an estimated 2,843 fewer deaths and 48,000 fewer serious injuries

Yet about 1 million Texans still don't buckle up — most claim forgetfulness.

But excuses won't help in an automobile accident or in trying to get out of a ticket.

There are some relatively new laws, passed in 2009, that could result in even more tickets being written.

"Adult passengers in the back seat now must be buckled up, and children younger than 8 years old have to ride in a child safety seat or booster seat unless they are taller than 4-9," Ms. Rawson said.

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department is also thinking about your safety. Because of a deadly 2008 boating season, the department expanded its public outreach — and law enforcement.

In 2008, 61 boaters died on Texas waters — the highest number since 2002, when there were more boats on the water. That extra effort resulted in fewer deaths in 2009 (down to 38 deaths) and 2010 (28 deaths).

"While we hate that anyone died in a boating accident last year, we are very encouraged to see that the number of deaths fell so dramatically," said Game Warden Maj. Jeff Parrish, the state's marine safety chief.

Most accidents involved only one boat — meaning the boat capsized, or a boater fell overboard, or collided with something. Safety is simple.

"First, wear a personal flotation device," Parrish said. "The new inflatable jackets are lightweight and comfortable, and they save lives. Second, don't drink and boat. Third, take a boater education course."

Increased enforcement of Boating While Intoxicated has resulted in a jump in arrests — from 220 in 2009 to 301 in 2012.

Swimmers also are at risk if they don't use good judgment, officials added.

Swim in areas clearly marked at lakes and at pools supervised by a lifeguard. Read and obey all rules and posted signs. Children always should be supervised and especially around water.

And watch out for the dangerous "toos" — too tired, too cold, too far from safety, too much sun, too much strenuous activity.

Memorial Day shouldn't be marred by accidents, injuries or even deaths.





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