Number of Drownings Down Due to New Tactics By DART

SACRAMENTO -- After an extremely high number of drownings in the American and Sacramento Rivers last summer, Sacramento County and the Drowning Accident Rescue Team, better known as DART, started to change their tactics to prevent accidents.

Now it seems those efforts have paid off. In the summer of 2015, there were 9 drownings surrounding Discornia Beach, this summer, there were none, according to DART.

DART boat crews have been spending their weekends patrolling the waters near Discovery Park, reminding kids and parents alike to wear a life vest.

"Life jackets are the only thing that will save your life down here,” said Leslie Robinson, DART’s President.

DART members can't issue citations, but can call law enforcement to issue ones up to $500 for anyone under 12 not in a life vest, which is state law. This year they've started reminding every swimmer they see and approaching people on the beach, warning them both the dangers of the river and its changing depths.

"People say 'Oh I'm a good swimmer', but when the bottom comes out from underneath you and the water is cold and it goes over your head, and the current takes you, panic sets in,” Robinson told FOX40. "The county reached out to us and said can you help us, can you go down there and get people in life jackets and talk to them about water safety."

But challenges remain for DART and other emergency crews. Early on Saturday, Sacramento County Park Rangers cut down a rope swing next to the I-5 bridge over the American River. But the same day someone replaced it.

DART is a non-profit volunteer organization. But Robinson said her organization doesn’t take all the credit. Without the local police, sheriff and fire departments who also patrol those waters, Robinson said decreasing that drowning number would have been impossible.