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MRC News

Published on August 29, 2001
Jim Albritton
Health and Research News Service

RANKIN COUNTY, Miss.—Methodist Rehabilitation Center’s newest employee, Sammy Safety, is teaming up with the Reservoir Patrol at the Ross Barnett Reservoir to encourage boaters to always think first about safety, especially during the long Labor Day weekend.

Sammy, his Methodist Rehab co-workers and Reservoir officers are promoting the Sammy Safety Boat Patrol which reminds both children and adults to always wear their life jackets, follow safe boating rules and act responsibly on and in the water.

“The most common accidents we see involve the reckless operation of boats or people who’ve drowned because they weren’t wearing life vests,” said Reservoir Patrol Chief James Stepp. “Often boats get too close to other boats, travel too fast, jump wakes and circle other boats too closely.”

Another problem on the state’s lakes and rivers is boating while intoxicated.

“People need to remember that operating a boat while intoxicated is a criminal offense punishable by fine, imprisonment or loss of their privilege to operate a boat,” said Stepp. “And in Mississippi a blood alcohol level of .10 percent or greater indicates intoxication.”

Other boating rules and regulations include:

  • All boats must have a horn that works properly.
  • Boats with an enclosed gas tank are required to have a fire extinguisher.
  • Boats 16 feet and longer must have one wearable life jacket for each person on board and one throw-able life jacket.
  • All water skiers, operators and passengers of waverunners and jet skis must wear a life jacket.
  • While pulling a water-skier, an observer who is not the boat’s operator, is required. The observer must be age 10 or older.
  • Children under the age of 12 must wear an approved life jacket when aboard a boat. The boat must be anchored or moored before children may remove their life jackets.
  • Children under the age of 12 are not allowed to operate a boat unless accompanied by an adult who is 21 or older and who has taken a boating safety course. Proof of the completion of the course must be carried onboard while the boat is operating.
  • Anyone born after June 30, 1980 must successfully complete an approved boating safety course prior to operating any motorized vessel. Proof of the completion of the course must be carried onboard while the boat is operating.

Each year an estimated 500,000 people sustain brain and spinal cord injuries in the United States. The most frequent causes of these injuries are automobile crashes, boating or water-related accidents, especially diving, athletic injuries and violence. Children and teens are at high-risk for these devastating injuries, many of which are preventable.

Sammy, a certified safety superhero, is part of Think First, a Methodist Rehab-sponsored injury prevention program aimed at young children and teenagers that tries to prevent spinal cord, brain and other traumatic injuries by focusing on bicycle, automobile, firearm, boat, swimming and diving safety.

“We work closely with schools, health care professionals and fire and police departments to do all we can to prevent traumatic, often life-changing injuries,” said Lauren Fairburn, Methodist Rehab’s Think First coordinator. “Children are very responsive when they meet Sammy. They really seem to understand his message and we hope they learn to always think first about safety and injury prevention.”

Think First speakers, including accident victims, physical therapists, paramedics and physicians, are available to speak to assemblies at elementary and high schools in Mississippi. Call 601-364-3451 for more information about Think First.