The Georgia Department of Natural Resources Law Enforcement Division is making clear their goals on the state waterways for the busy July 4th holiday weekend. They plan to make no boating under the influence (BUI) arrests, work no drownings or boating incidents and plan to see that everyone enjoys themselves and goes home safely. However, if their goals are to become a reality, boaters and swimmers must embrace the three C’s – Compliance, Caution and Common sense.
The Rangers know that reaching that goal is a long shot but they will try nonetheless.
“If everyone will just adhere to the law, exercise the caution and care necessary to be safe, and use common sense around the water, they will enjoy the weekend and avoid trouble and tragedies.” said Lt. Col. Jeff Weaver, assistant director of the Law Enforcement Division. “However, our Rangers will be working all weekend to keep the lakes and rivers safe and patrolling for those who make poor decisions and unsafe choices.”
There will be extra guidance from the Rangers this 4th due to the new mandatory boater education law that took effect on July 1st. The law says that anyone born on or after January 1, 1998 must complete a boater education course approved by DNR prior to operating any motorized vessel on state waters. Information on boater education and course listings can be found at www.goboatgeorgia.com/boating/education.
Additionally the law requires anyone renting a boat or personal watercraft (PWC) to watch a short educational video and complete a safety checklist in order to rent the vessel, unless they have previously completed a DNR-approved boater education class.
Rangers will use the rest of the summer boating season to inform the public and make them aware of the new education requirements.
Boating sober or having a non-drinking “Designated Skipper” should also be a priority. Last weekend, DNR Law Enforcement conducted “Operation Dry Water” on all state waterways, an effort to curb boating under the influence of alcohol or drugs (BUI). Twelve BUI arrests were made during the operation.
So far this year in Georgia, 40 boating incidents have resulted in 28 injuries and three boating incident-related fatalities. Additionally, there have been 22 drownings on public waters. Conservation rangers have issued 87 boating under the influence citations statewide.
“We hope we don’t add to these numbers and that everyone goes home safely at the end of the day,” said Weaver.
Following are some of the many recommended safety rules for boat and personal watercraft (PWC) operators:
- Designate an operator – Do not drink and operate a boat. Georgia law states that a blood alcohol content level of .08 or greater for boaters is legally intoxicated – the same content as for driving a car.
- Take a boating safety course – it’s mandatory for anyone 16 years old or younger.
- Wear a life jacket – Children under 13 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 and during low light conditions – 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. Also, all vessels must be at idle speed when they pass within 100 feet of a dock, bridge, pier, piling, wharf, person in the water, shoreline adjacent to a residence, public park, public beach or swimming area, marina, restaurant or other public use area.
Personal water craft operators 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 – under 12 may not operate a PWC; 12-15 must take the education course or have a competent adult on board, age 18 or older, not under the influence of alcohol or drugs, who is carrying proper identification.
- Make sure everyone who operates your PWC is aware of boating laws and how to safely operate a PWC. As the owner, you can be held responsible.
For more information, visit www.goboatgeorgia.com/boating/safety . Several videos on the new law and other safety-related topics at www.goboatgeorgia.com/new-boating-regulations-2013.
The Georgia Department of Natural Resources Law Enforcement Division is committed to conserving our natural resources and protecting the people we serve through fair and vigorous law enforcement, quality education, and community involvement.