Thanks to higher water levels and sunny skies, the upcoming Fourth of July holiday weekend is sure to be a busy one on Georgia’s lakes and waterways, according to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Wildlife Resources Division. Conservation Rangers with the Department will do their best to ensure the safety of everyone on the water and boaters are strongly encouraged to use good judgment and exercise caution while on the water.

So far this year in Georgia, there have been 58 boating incidents resulting in 40 injuries and 5 boating incident-related fatalities. Additionally, there have been 21 drownings on public waters. Conservation Rangers have issued 69 boating under the influence (BUI) citations statewide.

“The Division wants boaters to remain alert to their surroundings,” says WRD Lt. Col. Homer Bryson. “A boating incident can happen in a split second, and most could have been avoided by following some simple rules and safety guidelines for operating watercraft.”

DNR offers the following safety rules for boat and PWC operators:

· Designate an operator. Don’t drink and operate a boat. While not illegal to have alcohol on a boat – it is always a wise idea to have a boat operator designated to stay sober. A person age 21 or over with a blood alcohol content of .10 can be charged with Boating Under the Influence.

· Take a boating safety course. To take a boating safety course, visit .

· Wear your life jacket. Recommended for all boaters. 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 distance and 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 should also 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 could be held responsible.