By Melanie Speicher -

SIDNEY — The weather is changing and the warmer temperatures are calling area residents to pull out their boats and have some fun on the area lakes.

And while it’s fun to feel the wind blowing through your hair as the boat skims the water, safety must come first when you get behind the wheel.

“The U.S. Coast Guard reports there were 700 deaths in America last year involving boating,” said Shelby County Sheriff John Lenhart. “There were another 5,000 accidents. In Ohio, there were 20 deaths.

“Most of the deaths involved drowning and the person wasn’t wearing a life jacket,” he said. “These are the most preventable accidents.”

He said every driver should have someone else on the boat watching for items in the water or if a person is skiing, watching for when they fall off the skis.

“An inexperienced driver can also lead to crashes,” said Lenhart. “And speeding is another reason for crashes.”

From Grand Lake St. Marys, to Lake Loramie to Indian Lake, he said, there are plenty of boating opportunities in the area.

“And, unfortunately, alcohol also plays a role in the crashes,” said Lenhart. As with operating a motor vehicle, the driver of the boat should not drink and drive.

Lenhart offered some tips to have a safe boating experience.

• Be weather wise, he said. Google the weather forecast. “Don’t go out on the lake if it’s supposed to storm,” he said.

• Pre-trip check list. Make sure the boat is operational and ready for a day on the lake.

“If your fuel tank is full, know that you should use 1/3 of the tank going out; 1/3 of the tank coming back; and have the remaining 1/3 tank in reserve in case of an emergency,” said Lenhart. “Common sense plays a factor in having a safe boating experience.”

• Obey the speed zones. “The speed zones in the lakes are there for a reason,” said Lenhart. “Some are there to prevent wakes from other boats. Others are there because trees have been removed and the stumps are still in the water.

• Have an assistant captain/skipper. “Pick someone who can run the boat and knows where all the emergency equipment is,” said Lenhart.

• Have a float plan. “Tell someone where you are going,” said Lenhart. “Tell them who’s with you and when you’ll be back.”

• Protect your dog. “Did you know that some dogs can’t swim,” asked Lenhart. “Some can’t because of illness or age. Make sure they have a life jacket on too. I see lots of people with dogs on their boats and the animals don’t have a life jacket on.”
• Know how to swim. “If you don’t know how to swim, take lessons,” said Lenhart. “The YMCA offers opportunities for you to learn to swim.”
• Boating course. “Anybody born after Jan. 1, 1982, has to take a boating course online,” said Lenhart.
• Safety checks. “Make sure you have an anchor for the boat; the horns work; and there’s a first aid kit on board,” said Lenhart.
“We want you to have fun on the water,” said Lenhart. “So be safe and have fun.”

By Melanie Speicher

The writer conducts a weekly interview to update readers with news from the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office, 555 Gearhart Road, Sidney.

The writer conducts a weekly interview to update readers with news from the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office, 555 Gearhart Road, Sidney.