The first rule for a summer of fun? Stay safe.
As the weather warms and people take to the lakes and rivers for summer fun, boaters are being asked to
keep it safe by obeying the rules of the water.
Each year the Memorial Day weekend is one of the year’s busiest boating weekends, according to the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, and busy waterways can lead to the increased possibility of boating accidents.
TWRA Wildlife Officer Dennis Ward said knowing the rules and paying attention to safety can help eliminate the chance of an accident or injury on the water.
“The biggest thing with boating safety is life jackets. Just like wearing a seatbelt it saves lives.” Ward said. “There has to be a wearable life jacket on board for each individual. It has to be the proper size and fit.”
Also, state law requires that any time the vehicle is under way all children age 12 and under must be wearing a life jacket, Ward said, adding that “drifting” is considered as being under way.
Life jackets are not the only type of personal flotation devices required under law.
“Boats which are over 16 feet are required to have a Type IV throwable on board and readily accessible,” Ward said. He said a Type IV throwable is a flotation device which can be tossed to individuals who have fallen off the boat into the water in order to help them maintain afloat until they can be rescued.
There are also requirements in the law which pertain to all types of vessels, Ward said. All vessels that are mechanically powered are required to have a current vessel registration and all vessels are required to have some type of noise making device on board — such as a whistle or air horn. He said that vehicles equipped with a gasoline engine are also required to carry a fire extinguisher on board.
Ward also recommends that all vessels carry rope lines, an anchor, a flashlight, a paddle and a first aid kit. “Those are not required equipment but they are definitely a good idea to have on board,” he said.
Just like on the roadways, alcohol while boating can lead to trouble, Ward said. “You have to have a sober operator controlling the boat,” he said, adding that the impaired limit for vessel operation is 0.08, the same as when driving a vehicle. Boating under the influence is illegal in Tennessee and Ward said that boaters who choose to drink alcohol while on the water should be mindful that on the water the effects of alcohol increase because of things like wave motion and glare from the sun.
One of the most common contributing factors to vessel accidents is something that can be easily corrected, Ward said.
“The biggest thing we see is inattention and distracted operators,” Ward said. “We know you are out there to have a good time, but you must always pay attention.”
Some boat operators are also required to have completed a boater safety course through the TWRA, Ward said. “If you were born on or after Jan. 1, 1989 the Boater Safety Course is required to legally operate a vessel,” he said. “If you were born before that you are grandfathered in.”
TWRA officials say taking a few minutes to check some of the boat components may be the key to having a nice, safe day. Merely performing a simple maintenance check before getting on the water may prevent problems.
Check hoses to make sure they are in good shape. Check spark plugs and be sure to use UL marine grade plugs. Make sure the lights work and carry extra fuses and bulbs.
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