DNR warns of new boating laws, stricter enforcement

COVINGTON -- With Jackson Lake already recording the first boating fatality of the season, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources Enforcement Division is urging boaters to familiarize themselves with Georgia law for those on the water and to take safety rules seriously.

There were 118 boating accidents and 12 boating-related fatalities in 2012 in Georgia and conservation rangers made 180 boating under the influence arrests, according to DNR statistics released this week.

"Please be sure to review Georgia boating laws before getting out on the water, especially the new changes relative to driving a boat under the influence and life jacket use for children," said Col. Eddie Henderson, chief of law enforcement for the DNR. "Your attention to safety rules and alertness to other people on the water can save lives."

The DNR offers the following safety rules for boat and personal watercraft (PWC) operators:

-- Do not drink and operate a boat. Georgia law has changed to move the blood alcohol content level to .08 to match Georgia driving law.

-- Take a boating safety course. Visit www.goboatatgeorgia.com/boating/education for course listings.

-- Wear a life jacket. Children under 13 years of age are required by law to wear a life jacket while onboard a moving vessel, but it's recommended for everyone to wear a life jacket.

-- Don't overload your boat with people or equipment. Check the capacity plate for the maximum weight or the maximum number of people the boat can safely carry.

-- Use navigation lights at all times when on the water at night. Check lights before it gets dark.

-- Watch your speed. The 100-foot law applies to all size vessels and prohibits operation at speeds greater than idle speed within 100 feet of any vessel, unless overtaking or meeting another vessel in compliance with the rules of the road.

PWC operators (those operating Jet Skis, Sea Doos, etc.) also should be aware of these additional safety rules:

-- Do not jump the wake of another boat.

-- Pay attention to your surroundings and make sure you stay well clear of other vessels.

-- Know Georgia's age requirements for PWC operation.

-- Make sure everyone who operates your PWC is aware of boating laws and how to safely operation a PWC. As the owner, you can be held responsible.

For more information, visit www.gaboatgeorgia.com/boating/safety.