Anyone who has ever taken a small child to a department store knows it only takes a second of distraction for them to dart off to who knows where.
Anyone who ever has raised a teenager knows their understanding of life-threatening danger is not yet fully developed. That lack of a warning signal often results in them taking risks full-fledged adults would know better than to take.
Anyone who ever has been around people who are drinking knows alcohol affects judgment, and those normally very fit sober people can find themselves in trouble in a heartbeat.
Those are just three of the contributing factors that can turn a pleasant afternoon at the pool or beach into a tragedy. There are no laws or signage that will address any of them.
Considering how many deaths Brazoria County has on its coastline, however, it might be time to consider measures that could more effectively and quickly respond to those dangerous lapses by beachgoers.
Predominant among them is the absence of lifeguards on any stretch of Brazoria County beach.
Suggesting trained life-savers be added at taxpayer expense always is greeted with controversy. Why should an individual have to pay to protect someone foolish enough to wade into a dangerous riptide, especially if they never go to the beach?
It’s for the same reason a person helps pay to staff the jail when they have no plans to hold up a convenience store and carries insurance when they’ve never been in a car accident. It is the obligation of government to protect its residents, and that includes doing what they can to keep them safe at the beach.
There are two main ways the county and municipalities could add lifeguards to our beaches. One would be to institute a fee — which Surfside Beach already has to drive onto its stretch of coast — that would cover the cost of lifeguards, cleanup and maintenance on county beaches. That way, those using the beach would cover the cost of their own protection.
The second choice would be the county just picks up the cost from existing tax revenue in the name of better public safety. That, obviously, would be a much tougher sell.
As evidenced by the terse signage in multiple languages posted at the mouth of the Brazos River and San Luis Pass not keeping people from taking the risk of swimming or fishing there, red flags and warning messages won’t keep toddlers from wandering off or improve the judgment of teens and drunks. Neither will lifeguards.
What having trained rescuers stationed from morning to sunset will accomplish is a near-immediate response to someone in trouble, giving them a chance to survive. They also will prevent bystanders and family members of the person in trouble from risking their own lives to save another, a decision that often saves the swimmer but kills the rescuer.
There is no saving people from themselves and their own bad decisions, of course. But there are means government can and should provide to respond quickly and efficiently, and lifeguards are one of those means we believe needs to be considered before more savable lives are lost in the Gulf.