"A little healthy fear is a good thing." Anonymous.
For many, summertime means more time spent outdoors, recreating and on occasion taking risks which we might not normally consider. A lesson I learned early, though it admittedly took longer than it should have to sink in is, “Large risk, small reward…don’t take the risk.”
Two recent tragedies hit close to home, impacting many friends and families we know well, and in both cases potentially avoidable, reminded me of the importance of reminding others of two very simple words which can mean a great deal in your lives as well as the lives of others...take care.
Georgia’s Lake Lanier has already had 12 fatalities this summer, either due to drowning or watercraft accidents.
Three lives, all in circles which intersect mine were sadly and terribly impacted in the past two weeks by potentially avoidable accidents. During 2017, more than 169,000 Americans died as the result of unintentional injuries. As a cause of death, accidents are only surpassed by heart disease and cancer.
Brad Alexander, 37, was recently riding one of the many electric scooters in Midtown Atlanta when he was struck and killed by a CobbLinc Transit bus late Wednesday night, July 17. The bus was turning right onto 15th Street, where Alexander was also riding on the street, with sidewalks closed by road construction. With no helmet or safety gear, the young man was crushed...and died at the scene. The bus driver is on administrative leave, as of this writing, the Atlanta Police Department has not cited the driver nor Mr. Alexander with fault in the accident. This is the second scooter fatality in Atlanta in as many months.
Family vacations and holiday celebrations are also taking place in our oceans and lakes all over Georgia, as well as neighboring Alabama, Florida and across the south all summer long. A prominent community leader in DeKalb County, former Vice-Chair of the DeKalb County School Board, Jim McMahan, 53, was enjoying time with his family on Lake Wedowee in Alabama, when he and his 17-year old daughter collided on two jet skis at 9 a.m. on Sunday, July 14. McMahan was killed almost instantly, while his daughter survived, after critical surgery and the loss of her right leg.
Training and safety gear should be a required when using engine operated devices on water. Georgia now requires a year with a learner's permit, prior to testing and the receipt of a Georgia Driver's License. Young drivers, on land or water, are by their nature generally less experienced, as well as more prone to a sense of invulnerability and risk taking.
On our recreational lakes and reservoirs, the combination of fun, sun, and occasional consumption of alcohol, blended with murky waters which sometimes require quick turns to avoid objects, make for a toxic mix when outboard motors and even smaller engines are at play. I know of other friends and families with members maimed by the simple act of backing a boat out of dock without first checking to see where nearby children were at play.
As with the two car minimum length distance suggested between vehicles on interstates at higher rates of speed, 50-100 feet is a generally safe bet when maintaining distance between non-docked water craft. Shifting currents, wakes and operator error are simply too prevalent given the often infrequent experience of recreational craft operators.
I've noted many of these scooter riders moving at top operating speed (roughly 20 mph), sailing through red lights, ignoring stop signs and seemingly choosing on impulse the road or the nearest sidewalk. Though the electronic contract with scooter operators suggest or mandate wearing helmets, the bulk of the younger riders almost never comply. And though current Georgia law does prohibit bicycles and other moving objects operated by anyone over the age of 12 on sidewalks, I would much prefer a municipal traffic ticket over any type of impact with a car, truck or larger motor vehicle on a road shoulder with a scooter or bike. Those odds will simply never be in my favor.
I've been to too many funerals in recent years, of those taken all too young, or helped grieving friends recover from such losses. Yes, you may seem a bit less courageous wearing a helmet when scooting down that sidewalk, or not running/walking alone on an unlit path at night...but you will also much more likely reach your ultimate destination with that solid accomplishment of arriving safely and alive. Please, take care out there.