Gov. Deal Proclaims Georgia Safe Boating Week
DNR Law Enforcement Urges Boaters to Follow "The Big 3" this Summer
Last Friday, Governor Nathan Deal signed a proclamation declaring May 16–22, 2015 as Georgia Safe Boating Week to coincide with National Safe Boating Week. What that means for Georgia DNR Law Enforcement Rangers across the state is that it is time to buckle on their life jackets, get out on the water, and work all summer to keep the public safe.
That’s right, even the highly-trained Rangers always wear their life jackets when they are out on the water. Why? Because they know that wearing a life jacket can be the difference between life and death.
“It doesn’t matter how experienced a boater you are, you can still be in a boating incident and end up unconscious and in the water,” said DNR Law Enforcement Assistant Director Lt. Col. Jeff Weaver. “In that situation, your chances of survival are greatly increased if you have your life jacket on.”
This boating season, DNR Law Enforcement is teaming up with the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA) and other marine law enforcement officers across the nation to promote three rules that, if followed, will greatly reduce the probability of a tragic day at the lake for you and your loved ones . They call them “The Big 3.”
No. 1: Wear Your Life Jacket – The number one proactive step you can take for water safety is to wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket. Wear it, don’t just have it.
Life jackets have come a long way in the last 20 years. There are many choices that are comfortable and easy to move around in, unlike those from years past.
And, parents please set the example for your kids. Show your kids that water safety is a high priority for the whole family. Also remember that the law requires all children under age 13 to wear a life jacket in a moving boat (drifting or under power).
National statistics, compiled by NASBLA, show that over three-fourths of all fatal boating incident victims drowned, and of those, 84 percent were not wearing a life jacket.
According to U.S. Coast Guard statistics from 2013, of the 560 boating incident deaths nationwide, 398 drowned. Only 61 of those victims were wearing a life jacket, 328 were not, and life jacket wear was unknown in nine cases.
No. 2: Obey and Follow Navigation (and other) Rules and Laws – There are no yellow lines on the lake but there are still “rules of the road” to follow to ensure safety. Many boat operators don’t know the basics or what the law says about safe boat operation. Things like:
· determining if you are the stand-on or give-way vessel when approaching other boats
· you must turn on navigation lights after sunset
· The 100-foot law, which mandates idle speed within 100 feet of a person, any other object in the water, and the shoreline of residences or public-use areas. This applies to personal watercraft too. Jumping the wake of another vessel within 100 feet is also illegal.
Georgia DNR Rangers worked 99 boat incidents statewide in 2014 that resulted in 78 injuries and 12 fatalities. The lack of knowledge in how to safely operate a vessel was a common factor in many of them. The Division worked for many years for mandatory boater education and, as a result, the “Kile Glover Boat Education Law” was passed by the Georgia Legislature in 2013 and went into effect on July 1, 2014. It requires all boat operators born on or after January 1, 1998 to complete a DNR-approved boater safety course before operating a motorized vessel on Georgia waters.
“The law specifies an age requirement but we encourage everyone, regardless of age, to take a boater education course,” stated DNR Capt. Mike England, who was instrumental in crafting the new law.
No. 3: Don’t Drink and Boat – It seems obvious but it is still a leading cause of boating incidents.
Unfortunately, there is still the mentality of many boaters that drinking and boating go together. Rangers across the state recorded 183 Boating Under the Influence (BUI) arrests last year, 23 more than in 2013.
In 2014, there were 12 fatal boating incidents statewide and nine involved alcohol. The statistics don’t lie. The safest practice is to designate an operator or just avoid alcohol use while out on the water.
“The blood alcohol content for BUI is 0.08, just like Georgia’s DUI law,” said Weaver. “But, impairment actually begins with the first alcoholic drink and increases with each subsequent drink. So, you may not be legally drunk but if you have consumed any alcohol, you are impaired to some degree.”
So, this summer, there are three simple rules for you to follow for a safe day at the lake. The key word is “you.” It’s up to you.
DNR Rangers will continue to educate on safety, enforce the laws, and provide tips and guidance on boat operation and courtesy.
However, they can’t make choices for you. It is a personal decision to practice safe boating. Choose to wear a life jacket. Choose to follow the “rules of the road” out on the water, and boat sober. Choose “The Big 3.”
For more on boating education, laws, and statistics visit the Georgia DNR Law Enforcement web site: http://www.gadnrle.org/ and click on “Boating.”
NASBLA also has some great safe boating resources at http://www.nasbla.org/.
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