COOS BAY, Ore. (AP) — When Robert Smith's 17-year-old son boogie boards, he wears a lifejacket.
That might seem extreme for anyone else, but being safe is an important part of enjoying Oregon's public beaches, said Smith, beach safety education coordinator with Oregon State Parks.
"Leave at home the idea that it can't happen to me because unfortunately it can, and we've seen it happen."
More than 260 incidents - including seven deaths last year and three this year - have been reported since 2002.
Avoid beach logs, Smith said. They can injure people climbing on them or near them, as happened to two children injured by a log rolled by a sneaker wave earlier this month in the Spinreel Dunes area.
The log trapped one girl underwater for 10 minutes.
"It only takes 4 inches of water to move a 5-ton log," Smith said.
"Always keep one eye on the ocean so you know what's going on and you can react," he said.
Watch out for sneaker waves that can pull people out to sea in rip currents that are difficult to escape, he said.
"First thing you want to do is not panic," he said. "And that will be very, very difficult."
If you're a swimmer, aim yourself parallel to the shore until you're out of the current, he said. People who can't swim should try to relax and call for help.
Wear a lifejacket when in the water, he said. Spring snow melt makes for swift currents and cold water filled with debris, he added.
In 2009, 385 people who drowned weren't wearing lifejackets, compared to the 87 who drowned while wearing lifejackets, the U.S. Coast Guard reported.
"The best lifejacket is the one that you're wearing," said George Tinker of U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary Flotilla 51 in Coos Bay.
In an emergency, people won't have time to grab the one in the bottom of the boat, he said.
Be a defensive driver, Tinker said. Operator inattention was the No. 1 contributing factor to boating accidents in 2009.
"The bottom line is you're keeping a good lookout."
The auxiliary does free safety checks. Call 541-404-1115 to schedule one, or head down to Englund Marine on May 21.
Or, take a Boater Education course.
ATV riders generally get into trouble when they try to ride beyond their abilities.
"The most prominent age group is young adult - the bulletproof age," said Chief Jerry Wharton of the Hauser Fire Department.
Wharton said his department goes on 60 to 80 emergency calls on the sand each year.
Tourists with ATV experience from back home sometimes don't know how to adjust their riding habits for sand, he said.
"They have sand dunes in other areas, but they don't change like these do," he said. Winds create new drop-offs in a matter of hours.
Regardless of what training they've had, all riders who rent an ATV must watch a safety video to get a 30-day permit, said Troy Rockwood of Steve's ATV Rentals in Hauser.
He said accidents often happen when people go too fast for conditions or try to jump without using a spotter, who stands on a ridge and flags other riders off.
ATV riders aren't the only ones who get intp trouble on the dunes; bigger vehicles often need to be extricated.
Wharton said his department will help people extricate vehicles, especially if they have children with them, so long as there's no other emergency call.
Information from: The World, http://www.theworldlink.com
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.