SOCIAL CIRCLE—While most Georgians have headed back to work and school, a warm holiday weekend always brings people to the water to celebrate. This Labor Day weekend will be no exception and given that expected level of activity, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Wildlife Resources Division stresses the importance of safety for all boat drivers and passengers.
“Holiday weekends often mean increased use of public waterways - and that means an increased need for safety awareness from all boaters,” said Chief of Law Enforcement Col. Homer Bryson. “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.”
So far this year there have been 110 boating incidents, 12 boating incident-related fatalities and 42 total drownings on Georgia waters. Wildlife Resources Division Conservation Rangers also have issued a total of 122 boating under the influence citations. Many accidents and fatalities can be avoided by reviewing and following safety tips over the course of the holiday weekend festivities.
• There are no “driving lanes” on the water, so boat operators need to be educated on the ‘rules of the road’ and aware of all other boat traffic in the area. The 100-foot law prohibits people from operating all vessels, including personal watercraft (i.e. PWC, 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 your life jacket. Nine out of 10 drowning victims did not. Children under the age of ten are required by law to wear a life jacket while onboard a moving boat (unless child is in a fully enclosed cabin).
• 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, noise and glare, 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 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 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.
• Minimum age requirements. Know Georgia’s age requirements for boat and PWC operation, and don’t lend your PWC to anyone underage.
• Brush up on your boater education 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 or through a home study course. Visit goboatgeorgia.com for more information on all three options.
For more information on boating safety, visit www.goboatgeorgia.com or call the Coastal Georgia DNR Law Enforcement office at (912) 264-7237.