TWRA reminds boaters to play it safe out on the water

Published 7:43 am Friday, May 26, 2017

As the Memorial Day holiday approaches, bringing with it the start of summer boating season, Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency officials are reminding those headed out on the water to practice good safety habits.

“Wearing your life jacket is the biggest safety thing,” said TWRA Wildlife Officer Dennis Ward. “Keep those kids in life jackets. They have to have them on at all times if they are 12 and under unless the boat is anchored, moored, or run aground.”

State regulations require that each boat must have one wearable personal flotation device (life jacket) of the appropriate size on board for each person in the boat as well as each person being towed. This regulation applies to rowboats, sailboats, canoes, and rafts as well as motorized boats.

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TWRA officials say the life jackets must be kept readily accessible, not hidden or stored below deck or in plastic bags. The life jackets should be worn, or at least be close at hand for adults where they can be reached quickly in the event of an emergency.

Ward also warns boaters against operating a boat if they have been consuming alcohol.

“The motion of the waves and the heat from the sun has a cumulative effect,” Ward explained. “Alcohol has a greater effect on you while boating that it does in a controlled environment.”

“The presumed level for intoxication is the same boating as it is on the road, 0.08,” he added. Those found boating while consuming alcohol could face a charge of boating under the influence, Ward said.

Boaters born on or after Jan. 1, 1989, are required by state law to have completed a boater safety course in order to legally operate a vessel.

Those needing to take the course can study online. When a person is ready to take the exam, they should go to their nearest licensing agency and purchase a “Type 600” license. The test must be taken at a certified testing site, and the Elizabethton/Carter County Public Library provides the testing free by appointment.

“We’re really thankful and appreciative to the library for taking this on and offering this service to the citizens,” Ward said.

One of the common mistakes boaters make is not keeping a proper lookout to watch for other boats or persons in the water.

Before heading out on the boat this summer, Ward said he recommends boaters review the state’s safety rules and regulations, which can be found online at by clicking on the “For Boaters” tab.

“It’s been a few months since many people have been on the water, and it’s a good idea to review those rules,” Ward said.