Enjoy W.Va.’s summer safely

The following editorial appeared in the Register-Herald, Beckley, on July 8:

Summer in West Virginia. There’s nothing better! So many activities to enjoy before cold, snow and ice descend on us once again.

Sometimes we get so wrapped up in packing as much adventure and good times into the beautiful summer days, we forget our safety. We cite as an example a Fourth of July motorcycle accident that injured an Indiana couple who were on their bike, attempting to pass a UTV, and were unaware that the UTV was turning left.

While we don’t know all of the particulars that led to the accident, we do know the slightest distraction on the part of any driver — motorcycle, UTV, ATV or car — can quickly mean trouble.

We also know that, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), motorcyclists are 30 times more likely to die in a crash than people in a car.

Those motoring in a car or other passenger vehicle must remain alert for motorcycles on the highway. They can be hard to spot, and sometimes it’s difficult to judge their speed. For motorcycle riders, the Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF)reminds them of that same fact.

It also recommends making sure your headlight works and is on day and night; using reflective strips or decals on your clothing and on your motorcycle; being aware of the blind spots cars and trucks have; flashing your brake light when you are slowing down and before stopping.

The foundation also says that if a motorist doesn’t see you, don’t be afraid to use your horn.

Other effective mental strategies include from the MSF:

— Constantly search the road for changing conditions.

— Give yourself space and time to respond to other motorists’ actions.

— Give other motorists time and space to respond to you.

— Use lane positioning to be seen; ride in the part of a lane where you are most visible.

— Watch for turning vehicles.

— Signal your next move in advance.

— Avoid weaving between lanes.

— Pretend you’re invisible and ride extra defensively.

— Don’t ride when you are tired or under the influence of alcohol or other drugs.

— Know and follow the rules of the road and stick to the speed limit.

Other safety issues go hand-in-hand with summer fun. One that has had impact in this area in the past month is water safety. Three young swimmers drowned within a 10-day period in the Greenbrier River and Indian Creek at Bluestone Lake.

We know that boaters must wear life jackets when they are on the water, but not everyone realizes it is a good safety measure for swimmers to follow.

River swimming can be especially dangerous, DNR officials say. One can be wading in ankle-deep water, take few steps and be in over their heads. Currents in the rivers can be tricky as well and with all of the rain we’ve had, water can be fast-flowing and murky. Nor is undertow a problem confined to swimming at the beach.

These swimming safety tips are provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, American Red Cross and West Virginia Natural Resources Police:

— Wear a life jacket in natural bodies of water, even if you can swim.

— Children’s “floaties” like water wings, inner-tubes and pool noodles are not designed to keep swimmers safe. Make sure children use U.S. Coast Guard-approved personal flotation devices.

— Teach children specific rules about how to behave near bodies of water.

— Always swim with a buddy.

— Don’t dive into natural bodies of water. It is difficult to estimate water depth and see hidden objects in the natural environment.

— Watch out for the dangerous “toos”: Too tired, too cold, too far from safety, too much sun, too much strenuous activity.

— Don’t let swimmers hyperventilate before swimming underwater or try to hold their breath for long periods of time. This can cause them to pass out and drown.

— Remember the rules “reach, throw, row and then go” if someone needs help in the water. Have reaching or throwing equipment available and know how to use them. A cooler or sturdy branch could be used in an emergency.

— Learn to swim. Formal swimming lessons can protect young children from drowning. However, even when children have had formal swimming lessons, constant, careful supervision when children are in the water is still important.(backslash)

— Learn Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR). In the time it takes for paramedics to arrive, your CPR skills could save someone’s life.

— Never mix alcohol or drugs and water recreation.

We love West Virginia in the summertime — beautiful green mountains, glistening lakes and rivers, both tranquil and fierce.

We want everyone to enjoy them all to the max, but be sure to always put safety first. The last thing we want are bad memories of a beautiful place.



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