The Georgia Department of Natural Resources is offering safety tips for boaters and swimmers for the upcoming July Fourth weekend.
DNR said it expects the holiday weekend to be even busier because the holiday creates a three-day weekend.
Here are the three main tips DNR is giving:
1. WEAR YOUR LIFE JACKET.
State law requires a boat to have a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket for each person on board. Children younger than 13 must wear a life jacket whenever the boat is moving, and DNR’s rangers recommend everyone wearing them all the time.
“Life jackets save lives, no question about it,” said Lt. Col. Jeff Weaver, assistant director of DNR’s Law Enforcement Division, in a press release. “But just like the seat belt in your car, it is completely ineffective if you aren’t wearing it.”
2. OBEY AND FOLLOW NAVIGATION (AND OTHER) RULES AND LAWS.
DNR said most boating incidents are caused by operators not knowing waterways’ “rules of the road.”
The agency said it has received complaints from multiple citizens across the state about boaters and personal watercraft users not following the 100-foot law. The law says boats and personal watercraft are not allowed to be operated “at greater than idle speed within 100 feet of another boat, a dock, a bridge, a person in the water, the shoreline, a marina or other public use areas.”
“We will be watching very carefully for violators of the 100-foot law,” Weaver said. “It is a dangerous activity and to maintain public safety, we just can’t allow it to happen.”
3. DON’T DRINK AND BOAT.
DNR said its rangers have already made 88 boating under the influence arrests a little more than a month into boating season, compared with 201 in all of 2015.
The blood-alcohol content limit for BUI is .08, the same as Georgia’s driving under the influence law. The agency said those caught boating over the limit will be arrested.
“A drunk boater becomes a drunk driver and vice versa,” Weaver said. “We don’t want impaired drivers on the roadways or the waterways.”
DNR encouraged having a “designated skipper.”
The agency said 42 boating incidents have resulted in 20 deaths and 18 injuries in Georgia this year. It added that 24 people have drowned on public waters.