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Be careful on water this holiday weekend
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On Memorial Day weekend one thing is certain, thousands of boaters and anglers will be out enjoying the holiday on state waters, according to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. Last year there were 158 boating accidents and 13 boating incident related fatalities in Georgia, and conservation rangers made 177 boating under the influence arrests.
“For many people, the holiday weekend signals the perfect time to be out on the water with family and friends,” says Col. Terry West, DNR chief of Law Enforcement. “However, we want to remind everyone that public waters will be very crowded, and in an effort to keep everyone safe, we encourage boat operators to stay sober and alert and know Georgia’s boating laws before heading out on the water.”
DNR offers the following safety rules for boat and personal watercraft
(PWC) operators:
- Designate an operator. Do not drink and operate a boat.
- Take a boating safety course. To take a boating safety course, visit www.goboatgeorgia.com .
- Wear a life jacket. Children under 10 years of age are required by law to wear a life jacket while onboard a moving boat.
- Don’t overload your boat with people or equipment. Check on 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.
PWC 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.
- 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.

Remember age requirements
The Georgia DNR also reminds boaters under the age of 16 that there is a minimum age requirement to operate a boat or personal watercraft (PWC) on public lakes and waterways. Young boaters can satisfy the minimum age requirements of this law by taking a boating safety course or by operating a boat under the supervision or in the accompaniment of an adult. The DNR encourages adults to NEVER leave young children unattended on vessels.
“Minimum age requirements are a necessity for the safety of the operator of the vessel as well as everyone else on the water,” says Lt. Col. Jeff Weaver, DNR assistant chief of Law Enforcement. “Just like the privilege of driving a car, young people should take the operation of a personal watercraft or other vessel very seriously and realize that they can avoid a serious incident by educating themselves about boating safety.”
Minimum boat operator age requirements are based on the age of the boat operator and the size of the vessel. For a complete listing of what ages can legally operate what type of vessel, visit www.goboatgeorgia.com and select “Boating,” “Boating Regulations” and then “Who can operate a boat?” or contact a DNR Law Enforcement office.
In Georgia, there are three ways young boat operators can take a boating safety course to satisfy the requirements of the minimum age law: classroom, online or a home study course.  Visit www.goboatgeorgia.com (Select “Boating” then “Boating Education”).
In a recent analysis, the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA) revealed that over the past 10 years, a number of adults have left a child unattended on a vessel (specifically PWCs).
This situation often resulted in the child starting the engine and taking off, leading to injury or even death of the child.
 “Safety regarding children and boating cannot be emphasized often enough,” Weaver said. Being proactively safe is important. Weaver advises boat operators to:
- NEVER leave a young child unattended on a vessel in the water.
- Always remove the lanyard attached to the engine cut-off switch when the vessel is docked, beached or otherwise unattended.
For more information on boating safety, visit www.goboatgeorgia.com.

Don't drink and boat
The Georgia DNR and TEAM Georgia, a safe and sober driving and boating coalition, are reminding people to refrain from drinking alcohol while operating a boat or personal watercraft (PWC).
Alcohol, mixed with boating activities, creates dangerous conditions that can lead to tragedy. Last year, conservation rangers made 177 boating under the influence arrests on Georgia waterways and responded to 20 alcohol-related boating incidents.
“It is not illegal to have alcohol in an open container on a boat, nor is it illegal for a person operating a boat to drink, provided they are no less safe,” says Lt. Col. Jeff Weaver, DNR assistant chief of Law Enforcement. “However, if a person is over the age of 21 and has a blood alcohol content of .10 or higher, they are presumed to be less safe and may be charged with boating under the influence.”
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