The recent drowning death of David Harshbarger of New Berlin, whose boat capsized during a storm on Aug. 9, is a sobering reminder of the importance of water safety. While tragedies do sometimes happen despite even the most rigorous preparation, many accidents can be prevented by taking some simple precautions.
It's not known if Harshbarger was wearing a life jacket when he went into the water, but Pittsfield Fire Chief James Jackson said the 23-year-old was weighed down by his clothing in the water.
The state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation's Safe Boating Web page lists life jackets as the first item on a checklist of boating must-haves. Skilled swimmers may erroneously believe that these safety devices are unnecessary, but treacherous conditions _ such as those Harshbarger encountered _ can vex even the most savvy swimmer.
Being tossed into the water fully clothed is a very different experience from diving in wearing a swimsuit. It can be difficult to think clearly and figure out what to do. Survival experts recommend removing one's shoes, and removing heavy clothes, unless the water is very cold. Being familiar with these protocols before getting near the water can help.
During the summer, it's not just boaters and swimmers who need to be careful. Two recent accidents in Oneonta highlighted the importance of driver, pedestrian and bicyclist safety as well. While no tickets were issued in either of the accidents, which happened Aug. 4, these incidents remind us that, as more people are walking, biking or going for a spin in the car during the summer, each of us needs to be careful, no matter what the manner of transportation.
While state law does not require cyclists 14 or older to wear helmets, they are an invaluable tool in protecting riders from injury. It can be tempting for cyclists to act like pedestrians at some times and cars at others, depending on the situation. This type of unpredictable behavior is an accident waiting to happen.
Drivers must remember that cyclists have just as much right to the road as cars, and behave accordingly.
Cars and pedestrians also often don't agree about who should yield to whom. But the law is pretty simple: cars should yield to pedestrians crossing with traffic signals, or in crosswalks. In pretty much any other instance, cars get the right of way.
While we don't know exactly what caused the 53-year-old Oneonta man to be struck by a car on Aug. 4, we do know that pedestrians and drivers alike can help prevent accidents by being mindful of their surroundings and obeying the law.