Rangers with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources are reminding boaters, fishermen and swimmers to use common sense and follow precautions while enjoying state waters during the holiday weekend.
Memorial Day weekend historically is one of the busiest on the state’s waters, and it kicks off summer boating season.
"For many people, the holiday weekend signals the perfect time to be out on the water with family and friends," said Col. Terry West, chief of DNR’s Law Enforcement Division. "We want to remind everyone that public waters will be very crowded. … We encourage boat operators to stay sober and alert and know Georgia’s boating laws before heading out on the water."
Last year, 13 people died and 113 were injured statewide in 158 boating accidents. Forty people drowned last year. Alcohol was a contributing factor in 20 cases. Meanwhile, DNR rangers arrested 177 people for boating under the influence of alcohol or drugs last year, according to state records.
DNR recommends people follow these safety rules year-round on Georgia waters:
– Never swim alone.
– Never dive into unknown waters.
– Wear a life jacket while boating, using a personal watercraft or water skiing.
– Don’t drink alcohol and swim, operate a boat or personal watercraft.
– Don’t swim or operate a boat or personal watercraft while under the influence of drugs.
– Designate a driver for boats or personal watercraft.
– Use navigation lights at night regardless of whether the boat is anchored or moving.
– Know the boating "rules of the road" and boating safety procedures.
– Don’t overload the boat with people or equipment.
– Personal watercraft operators should maintain a safe and legal speed. Don’t jump wakes.
– Boaters and personal watercraft operators should stay clear of other vessels and watercraft.
– Georgia law requires the reporting of any boating accident resulting in death, serious injury or at least $2,000 in property damage.
To report a boating accident in Coastal Georgia, call DNR rangers at (912) 264-7237 during normal business hours Monday through Friday. After-hours and on weekends, call DNR’s statewide operations center toll-free at (800) 241-4113.
Georgia Times Union