No. 1 priority for every boater should be safety

Published 3:02 pm Tuesday, June 29, 2021

As the Fourth of July approaches, many Carter Countians will be participating in recreational boating. Watauga, South Holston, and Boone Lakes will be popular attractions for those looking for a fun way to spend the holiday. Remember that it is important to take the necessary steps to make sure everyone on board stays safe.
The July 4th holiday means an increase in boater activity on the water and there is also an increase in the number of incidents during this time.
The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency will be on heightened alert for boating under the influence infractions. Over the course of the July 4th holiday, law enforcement officers will also be working to increase public awareness of the dangers of boating under the influence of alcohol or drugs, for both operators and passengers. Boaters will notice an overall increase in officer patrols on the water. The combined efforts of the participating law enforcement agencies will result in the removal of impaired operators from our state’s waterways, providing a safe and enjoyable experience for boaters.
Alcohol use is the leading contributing factor in recreational boater deaths. Sun, wind, noise, vibration and motion intensify the effects of alcohol, drugs and some medications.
The United States Coast Guard reported that boating deaths surged nearly 25% in 2020 compared to 2019. This statistic correlates with the COVID-19 pandemic because instead of crowded shopping malls and restaurants, people headed outdoors — many of them taking up boating.
The Coast Guard reported that the surge in boating accidents occurred in 2020 just three months after the restrictions were put in place — when the weather got hotter and summer began. They expect 2021 to be just as busy for boaters as 2020 was, possibly even more so.
The report from the Coast Guard stated, “The percentage of new boats sold to first-time buyers surged to 34 percent in 2020, while boating education plummeted.” It wasn’t so much that boating or the waterways became more dangerous. The Coast Guard contends that boating is immeasurably safer than driving. They reported that the higher fatalities due to boating occurred for the single reason that there were just more people doing it. “Boaters reported that every weekend in America’s waterways in the summer of 2020 looked like the Fourth of July,” the report stated. 
Celebrating the Fourth of July and a summer of boating, we want to share some of the Coast Guard’s tips on keeping your family safe while you enjoy your watercraft, boat, or vessel.
In addition to boating sober, there is the need to wear a life jacket when you’re on or in the water. Statistics show that 86 percent of people who drowned in a recreational boating accident were not wearing a life jacket. Always wear your life jacket!
Thirdly, we strongly advise that you take a boating safety course before getting on the water. In accidents where the operator’s instruction was known, 70 percent of fatalities occurred on boats where the operator had not received any boating safety instruction.
Also, take heed of the weather. It is very important to watch the weather before departing on a boating adventure and to take any warnings seriously. Never embark on an excursion in inclement weather. Notify a shore contact immediately should you find yourself out on the water during a storm.
Brush up on the rules of the road, or should I say, water, and avoid crowded areas. The Coast Guard reported that many accidents occur due to boaters just being distracted. Keep your eyes peeled in crowded waterways.
For children who still do not know how to swim or are weak swimmers, it is vital they remain in a life jacket at all times.
Boating is a wonderful pastime in this part of TVA country and should be enjoyed by locals and visitors alike. But practicing safe boating precautions could be life-saving and should be taken seriously.