TWRA reminds boaters to stay safe on the water
Published 9:07 am Tuesday, May 31, 2016
As summer gets underway, state officials are asking boaters to keep it safe when taking to the waterways.
The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency will be hosting a Boating Safety Education Class on Saturday, June 4, at the Tennessee College of Applied Technology (TCAT) at Elizabethton beginning at 9 a.m.
In order to legally operate a vessel in the state of Tennessee, state residents born after Jan. 1, 1989, must complete the TWRA Boating Safety Education class and have their certificate on their person while operating the vessel, said TWRA Wildlife Officer Dennis Ward.
During the class on Saturday, Ward said instructors will go over Tennessee boating laws and regulations as well as basic safety precautions.
“We will cover some of the manual, but the hope is people will study before the class,” Ward said. “The test has to be proctored, but they can study online through the TWRA website.”
Before coming to the class, Ward said participants must go to an license issuing agent for TWRA hunting and fishing licenses and purchase a “Type 600” license.
“That is their ticket to take the exam,” Ward said. “That Type 600 is good for being able to take the test multiple times, if necessary.”
Those who cannot attend the class on June 4 can study for the test online and then go to a test proctoring location, Ward said. “The closest place to take the exam if you want to do it on your own is the Johnson City Public Library,” he said. “They agreed to be a proctor for the exam.”
The Washington County Public Library sites in Jonesborough and Gray as well as the Johnson County Public Library in Mountain City also provide proctored testing for the exam by appointment only.
While the safety course is only required for residents born after Jan. 1, 1989, Ward said he would recommend it for anyone who operates a vessel, especially anyone who is new to boating. “They can learn a lot from this course,” he said.
With boating season beginning to pick up, Ward also wants to remind boaters of some of the safety basics to remember when out on the water.
The most important, Ward said, is making sure there is a life jacket of the proper size and fit on board for each person on the vessel. Kids under the age of 13 must wear a life jacket any time the vessel is underway, he added.
“Underway includes all times unless under anchor, the vessel has run aground or you are tied off to a dock, structure or tree on the bank,” he said, adding “drifting” is considered underway. “If you are being towed behind the boat — such as skiing or on a tube —you are required to wear a life jacket. Everyone is required to wear a life jacket on a personal water craft such as a jet ski.”
Ward also cautions boaters about the use of alcohol while on the water.
“There are laws that prohibit boating under the influence of alcohol or other intoxicants,” he said. “Impairment is a leading contributing factor of accidents that occur on Tennessee waterways.”
Boating under the influence differs under state law from driving under the influence because of the number of factors that can affect impairment out on the water, Ward said.
“There is a presumed level of impairment,” he said. “Individuals can be convicted with levels below the .08 limit for driving.”
“Alcohol affects people differently on the water because of the glare from the sun, the wind, and the motion of the water,” Ward added. “The impairment is more pronounced in a boating environment because of those factors.”
For more information on boating regulations or boating safety guidelines, visit the TWRA website at www.tnwildlife.org.