Can we agree that kids are not always very smart about what they do? Neither are adults, of course, but they at least ought to know better.
For young people, though, limited life experience can be dangerous. Their judgment is not fully developed and they have a sometimes reckless belief in their own indestructibility, a condition endemic to their age. The consequences of that can be tragic, especially at this time of year, when the water beckons and dangers go unappreciated.
In Wilson last Sunday, a 16-year-old boy drowned after "pier jumping" with his friends into Lake Ontario. Some friends tried to rescue him; others, frozen by fear, didn't know what to do.
In Florida last week, an 11-foot alligator lunged at a 17-year-old boy swimming in a river, snapping his arm off below the elbow. The alligator was found and killed and the arm was recovered, but doctors could not reattach it.
In Maryland last weekend, two cousins and an 8-year-old friend – all boys – drowned in a creek on the state's Eastern Shore. The boys' parents were at work and police believe they may have gone to the creek to cool down.
These are tragedies. None of them had to happen and, sad to say, they are not uncommon. Swimming is one of the real pleasures of a short summer. At a certain age, it is the reason even to have a summer. The lure is magnetic, but the dangers are real, especially when young people are swimming unsupervised by lifeguards or adults.
It's not just swimming, of course. Too often we report tragedies involving teenagers driving too fast for road conditions or taking other chances that someone with more mature judgment would know – or, at least, should know – to avoid.
Some things can be done. In Buffalo, police cars are now equipped with water safety devices that officers can use to rescue distressed swimmers. One was used to save a man in the Niagara River only 16 hours after the first cars received the new equipment. Other police departments, in municipalities bordering waterways, would do well to invest in similar equipment.
Areas that are "attractive nuisances," as Wilson's mayor described the twin piers that jut into Lake Ontario, should be monitored as much as practical with prominent warning signs posted. Schools, churches and community groups need to ensure, as best as possible, that young people are made aware of dangers they might otherwise ignore.
And, of course, parents need to be vigilant. As any parent of a teenager will acknowledge, it is impossible to keep them on a tight leash at all times, especially as they get older. Sometimes, all you can do is to repeat the lessons again and again and hope that they get through.All obvious suggestions, perhaps. So, what's the point? To avoid new heartache. To prevent the next teenage calamity, even knowing that another is bound to occur after that and another after that. Such is the price of youth. Vigilance and education are the only tools adults have to ward off tragedy. We should use them well.