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Bring your brain to the beach


As the summer of 1993 steams along, 90-degree day after 90-degree day, Marylanders in search of relief are flocking to the beach, the river banks, their pools -- anywhere there's water. But people often forget that where there's water, there's also danger.

Already this swimming season, water-related accidents have exacted a deadly toll. In the last 45 days, three people have drowned in Anne Arundel County -- two in Furnace Creek and one near the old Severn River Bridge. County fire officials report several near-drownings in the last two weeks.

For some reason, many people leave behind their common sense when they're near water. Negligence is at the root of almost every accident. Steve Sholl, a water safety expert with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, says a whopping 70 percent of adult drownings are alcohol-related.

Most drownings involving children happen when kids are left unsupervised. Too often, teen-agers and young adults don't think about the water depth or surf conditions before they dive off a bank or plunge into the ocean.

Boaters are lax about wearing life jackets and careless about drinking. The DNR reports that half of boating accidents are alcohol-related; a high-profile boating accident that killed two major-league baseball players last spring hasn't altered this behavior.

Drowning doesn't take very long; a few minutes under water can result in death or brain damage. It pays to heed the precautions recommended by the DNR and other experts:

* Take swimming lessons. Even if you're a good swimmer, never swim alone or where a lifeguard is not on duty. Don't rely on rafts or other flotation devices; they can deflate without warning or can be pulled away by the current.

LTC * Check water and weather conditions, especially at surf beaches. Check water depths before diving. Don't dive off banks.

* Never leave children unsupervised. Never rely on floats or inner tubes. Parents are particularly prone to letting down their guard at pools manned by lifeguards; lifeguards aren't baby-sitters.

* If you must drink alcohol, limit consumption to one drink or less per hour. Even good swimmers have drowned after drinking.

* Boaters should make sure they have the right kind of life jackets and enough for every person. Children should wear them at all times. That goes for adults, too.

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