Memorial Day is almost here and it is traditional for many local residents to head to an area lake to celebrate. It also kicks off the 2014 boating season and along with it the usual safety concerns.
The Georgia Department of Natural Resources in Social Circle put out a press release this week asking people to take time to review rules and regulations and take safety precautions into account before joining thousands on the water.
According to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ Law Enforcement Division there were 112 boating incidents and 16 boating-related fatalities in Georgia in 2013. Conservation rangers also made 160 boating under the influence arrests.
“Your attention to safety rules and alertness to other people on the water can save lives,” Col. Eddie Henderson, DNR division director said in the release. “It is your role to be as safe as possible so you are in control of your vessel and anything unexpected that happens on the water.”
The Georgia DNR listed the following top safety rules:
- Designate an operator. Do not drink and operate a boat. Georgia law changed in 2013 to move the blood alcohol content level to .08 to match Georgia driving law.
- Take a boating safety course. Beginning July 1, 2014 all boat operators born on or after Jan. 1, 1998 are required to have completed a DNR-approved boater safety course before operating a motorized vessel on Georgia waters. Visit www.goboatgeorgia.com/boating/education for course information.
- 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 highly 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.
For more information about boating in Georgia, visit www.goboatgeorgia.com/boating. Several videos on boating-related laws in Georgia, including the boater education requirement effective July 1, are available at www.georgiawildlife.com/new-boating-regulations-2013.