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Course teaches boating safety
Lake Lanier leads Georgia in boating accidents
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U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary Safe Boating Course
When: 8:30 a.m. to
4:30 p.m. Saturday
Where: Coast Guard Auxiliary Operations Center, 6595 Lights Ferry Road, Flowery Branch
How much: $40
More info: 770-891-6362 or auxiliaryclass@yahoo.com

The U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary is hoping to turn the tide on the growing number of accidents on Lake Lanier.

The group offers monthly boating safety classes to educate the public, and the next class will be Saturday. It will cover topics like boat safety, lake etiquette and boating laws, according to Mike Atkinson, public education officer for Flotilla 29.

“The goal of the class is to get boaters, a lot of them new, familiar with Georgia and federal regulations and boating issues they’ll be facing on the water,” he said. “People just don’t know the rules of the road, and I think that certainly leads to more incidents. Education is key.”

Atkinson said the group has already taught close to 100 boaters this year but will continue offering classes through October.

At the end of the eight-hour course, students take a test and receive a certification card.

Atkinson said the card allows children younger than 16 to operate personal watercraft and may qualify boaters for a 10-15 percent discount on boating insurance.

But Atkinson said the biggest benefit is increased safety.

Lake Lanier has consistently led Georgia in the number of boating accidents, accounting for 54 of the state’s 135 incidents in 2010, according to statistics provided by the Department of Natural Resources.

That was up 58 percent from the number of incidents on Lake Lanier in 2008.

Department of Natural Resources Maj. Stephen Adams said the upturn can most likely be attributed to increased traffic on the water.

“When the drought was going on, there was a time when probably 90 percent of boat ramps were closed down,” he said. “That’s obviously going to keep a lot of people off the water. When the lake gets full, more people will go.”

With increased water traffic, Atkinson said education has never been more important.

“If you’re in a powerboat and someone’s approaching, there are rules about who needs to slow down,” he said. “It’s a lot of things people don’t think about but they’re important.”

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