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Water safety at home and on the lake

Backyard pools and spas are the most common site for drowning of small children, but a recent Washington state code requires homes with pools and spas to have proper barriers for children. Beginning July of last year, all new private pools and spas in Washington must have barriers. The regulation applies only to new pools and spas, but these safer standards are recommended for older pools and spas as well.

Every year in the United States an average of 283 children under age 5 drown in pools or spas, and 2,700 children are treated in emergency rooms following pool and spa submersions. In Washington, drowning is the second leading cause of unintentional injury death for children.

Ways to stay safe at home in lakes and rivers:

Know the water — Washington’s lakes and rivers are cold enough to cause hypothermia, even in the summer and even among the strongest swimmers.

• Wear a life jacket.

In 2005, 87 percent of people who drowned in boating incidents in the United States were not wearing a life jacket.

• Avoid swimming or boating in high, running water.

• Never dive or jump into unfamiliar or shallow water.

• Know your limits. Drowning often happens when someone becomes tired. People usually drown in silence and without attracting attention. It is a myth that people wave their arms and shout for help.

• Learn to float and tread water.

• Swim in lifeguarded areas.

• Watch children closely.

• Avoid swimming while under the influence of alcohol or other drugs.

• State law requires children 12 and under to wear a Coast Guard-approved life jacket or vest on vessels less than 19 feet long.

Gas tax up July 1

The final 1.5-cent gas tax increase from the 2005 transportation revenue package took effect on July 1. The increase will cost the average Washington state driver $9 per car every year.

Meanwhile, the Washington State Department of Transportation is more than half-way to completing the nearly 400 projects funded with 2003 and 2005 transportation revenue increases.

As of June 30, WSDOT completed 148 of the 391 projects funded by the 2003 and 2005 revenue increases. The projects built, WSDOT said, have made highways safer, eliminated bottlenecks and chokepoints and preserved an aging transportation infrastructure.

The 129 projects completed as of March 2008 were collectively delivered for almost $6 million less than the $1.3 billion legislative budget expectation.

For information, go to www.WSDOT.WA.gov.

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