Boating safety: Tips given to avoid accidents

COVINGTON - The Georgia Department of Natural Resources' Wildlife Resources Division in Social Circle is stressing boating safety over the final summer holiday weekend, especially warning boaters not to drink while on the state's waterways.

"Holiday weekends most often mean increased use of public waterways - and this means an increased need for safety awareness from all boaters," said Chief of Law Enforcement Lt. Col. Homer Bryson in a press release. "As always, conservation rangers will continue to strictly enforce all boating laws in an effort to keep everyone safe, but we also encourage people to pay extra attention to others on the water."

Bryson said so far this year there have been 120 boating incidents, eight of which resulted in fatalities, as well as 39 drownings in Georgia waters.

Wildlife Resources Division conservation rangers also have issued a total of 159 boating under the influence citations.

He said many accidents and fatalities can be avoided by reviewing and following safety tips over the course of the holiday weekend. Here are a few examples:

The 100-foot law

There are no driving lanes on the water, so boat operators need to be educated on the "rules of the road" and be aware of all other boat traffic in the area.

The 100-foot law prohibits people from operating all vessels, including personal water craft such as a jet ski, at a speed greater than idle speed within 100 feet of any vessel that is moored, anchored or adrift outside normal traffic channels, or within 100 feet of any dock, wharf, pier, piling, bridge structure, person in the water or shoreline adjacent to a full-time or part-time residence, public park, public beach, public swimming area, marina, restaurant or other public use area.

Wear life jackets

Wear your life jacket. Nine out of 10 drowning victims did not. Children under the age of 10 are required by law to wear a life jacket while on board a moving boat, unless the child is in a fully enclosed cabin.

Beware of BUI

Do not drink and operate a boat. Half of all boating fatalities involve alcohol. Alcohol can affect people much more rapidly on the water - the boat's movement, vibration and noise, and the sun and wind create a so-called boater's hypnosis. Make sure a designated operator refrains from drinking alcohol so they can safely operate the boat.

Use lights

Use navigation lights at all times on the water at night, whether the boat is moving or anchored. Do not wait until dark to turn your lights on to see if they are functioning properly.

Do not crowd boat

Do not overload your boat with people or equipment. Check the capacity plate on the boat that indicates the maximum weight capacity or the maximum number of people that the boat can safely carry.

Age requirements

Know Georgia's age requirements for boat and PWC operation and don't lend your PWC to anyone underage.

Safety knowledge

Brush up on your boating safety knowledge. Take a boating safety course. There are three easy ways for boat operators to take a course in Georgia - in a classroom, on the Internet at www.boat-ed.com or through a home study course that can either be ordered on the Internet at www.boat-ed.com or by calling 1-800-460-9698.

For more information on boating safety, visit www.gaboatgeorgia.com or call a DNR Law Enforcement officer in the Northeast Georgia office at 770-535-5499.