Boaters are sure to flood Georgia’s waterways this Labor Day Holiday weekend, bringing the summer boating season to an unofficial end. Given the expected level of holiday boating activity, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Wildlife Resources Division (WRD) is teaming with the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety (GOHS), the Georgia State Patrol, TEAM Georgia and Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) to stress the importance of boating safety this holiday weekend.
"Holiday weekends often mean increased use of public waterways - and that means an increased need for safety awareness from all boaters,"said Col. Terry West, Chief of Law Enforcement. "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 93 boating incidents, 10 boating incident-related fatalities and 38 total drownings on Georgia waters.
WRD Conservation Rangers have also issued a total of 159 boating under the influence (BUI) citations. Many accidents and fatalities can be avoided by reviewing and following safety tips over the course of the holiday weekend’s festivities.
- 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 watercraft (PWC), 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 ten drowning victims did not. Children under ten years of age are required by law to wear a life jacket while on board a moving boat (unless child is in a fully enclosed cabin).
- Don’t drink and operate a boat. Half of all boating fatalities involve alcohol. The boat’s movement, vibration, noise, sun, glare and wind often produce "boater’s hypnosis," so alcohol can affect people much more rapidly on the water. Make sure someone 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.
- Don’t 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 boating safety knowledge. Take a boating safety course. In addition, due to Georgia’s current drought situation and the effects on area lakes and waterways, WRD advises boaters to be extra cautious and aware of possible navigational obstructions while on the water.