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Was this summer more dangerous for boaters?

12:16 PM, Sep 3, 2012   |    comments
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BUFORD, Ga. -- There's no question that for several families who lost loved ones this year, no matter what the stats say, this was the worst summer on record. There were several drownings, and three young boys were killed in boating accidents on Lake Lanier alone.

Law enforcement officers usually step up their efforts on crowded holiday weekends like this one. But they say many boaters seem to have gotten the message already, because the waterways are calming down.

"I think it's a combination of things," said Sgt. Mike Burgamy with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. "We're stepping up enforcement efforts, people are seeing these tragedies, and boaters are trying to do better about finding designated operators."

So are the waterways more dangerous, or are they getting safer?

A look at the most recent numbers available this year gives data through August 15th. They were provided by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. When compared to the last three years at the same time period, it seems lake deaths this year were equal to last year, and down from 2010. That figure is taken from adding boating fatalities to drownings. As for statewide boating accidents, this year's 96 incidents were up from last year's 87, but down from 110 in 2010.

As for Lake Lanier alone, this year's 29 boating incidents were down from last year's 31, which was lower than the 43 in 2010. The 8 drownings and fatalities on Lake Lanier this year were down from 12 last year, but up from the five in 2010. Alcohol citations were consistently higher over the last three years, and doubled on Lake Lanier alone this year. Burgamy said that was due to his officers getting more strict.

"Alcohol and boating do not mix, and if you're drinking and boating, we're going to be looking for you," Burgamy said.

It seems the numbers show this summer was not necessarily a more dangerous one than the last. But in the minds of many boaters, the safety message is still more clear than ever. Those with young families say safety is now at the forefront of their minds whenever they think about going to the lake.

"It kind of makes you think," said Joshua Voss of Dunwoody. "You want to keep your family safe."

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