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Boating recreation accidents and fatalities at Lake Lanier

Lake Lanier, created by Georgia's Buford Dam, contains water necessary to Georgia, Alabama and Florida. Each state demands preferential water allocation. There are, however, no complaints among the water war combatants regarding Lake Lanier's recreational advantages.

Activity on Lake Lanier occurs all year. The large, popular recreation area is easily accessible to the public. Locals are plentiful, and tourists from other states enjoy the cool water in summer for fishing and boating. The lake supports over 8 million users per year.

Unexpected land and water hazards

Along with huge crowds at Lake Lanier, the many different types of activities increase the potential for accidents. Swimmers and children playing in inner tubes share the water with rowers, jet skiers, paddleboats, trawlers and speedboats with powerful engines. Along the 692-mile shoreline, multiple beach areas attract drinking parties and family picnics, often with unhappy results. Excessive drinking can erupt into brawls, and families retreat to avoid becoming collateral damage.

After dark, any motorized craft on a lake is at risk. Depth perception loses effectiveness at night. Warning markers extend several feet above the water atop dangerous rock piles in Lake Lanier. The white flags are easily visible in the daytime but are hard to see at night. Speeding or substance-impaired boaters can easily fail to spot warning markers. Avoidable boating deaths are a national tragedy.

A near tragedy avoided

A commercial fishing boat struck a Lake Lanier Rowing Club shell on a cold January day. Rowers can be on the lake all year. Rowing shells are light and slender, making them difficult to spot in the water. Winter boaters may relax vigilance when water is sparsely populated. The boat operator admitted he was not paying attention; by the time he spotted the rowers, it was too late to stop. There were no serious injuries, although the rowing team members pulled from the frigid water required treatment for hypothermia.

The trifecta of boater negligence, injury and fatality

The boat operator was incredibly lucky there were no deaths. Many boating fatalities occur on Lake Lanier. Locals call the area a death trap. Three types of negligent boating behavior predominate in catastrophic accidents at Lake Lanier: Intoxicated drivers, excessive speed and failure to wear life jackets. All three dangers are often present.  

Any victim of a boating collision, personal injury or families of those who received harm because of boating negligence are fully entitled to seek help for themselves or on behalf of their loved ones. Until careless boaters understand their actions can ruin lives, including their own, there is little incentive to practice responsible boating at Lake Lanier.

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