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Making a push for water safety
Boats, watercraft will be patrolling during Memorial Day weekend
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Eric Isom, ranger first class for Georgia Department of Natural Resources, navigates a boat around Lake Lanier during the Summer of Safety media day at Laurel Park on Thurday, May 21, 2015. - photo by Erin O. Smith

Before Memorial Day, Col. Eddie Henderson of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources counted 10 boating-related fatalities, almost matching last year’s grand total of 12.

“We’re already way ahead of the game, and the boating season has not even kicked off yet,” he said.

A dozen boats and watercrafts will be out patrolling this weekend, said DNR Ranger First Class Eric Isom at the “Summer of Safety” kickoff Thursday.

“Our whole goal and mission is to make sure you go home safely,” Isom said.

Representatives from the Hall County Sheriff’s Office, Georgia State Patrol, the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety and others spoke Thursday on the importance of following certain safety rules.

The main three, Henderson said, were wearing life jackets, obeying the navigation rules on the water and sober driving.

The most common rule that boaters needed to be aware of, Isom said, was the 100-foot law. No vessel can go above idle speed within 100 feet of a person in the water, any structures or anchored boat.

“A lot of people don’t realize that they come way too close to people in the water or on shorelines and that’s how accidents occur,” Isom said.

Of the 12 fatalities last year, nine of them were alcohol-related, Henderson said. In addition, DNR made 182 boating under the influence arrests last year.

In a normal Memorial Day weekend, TowBoat U.S. Lake Lanier owner Robert Estrada said his company will tow 45 to 50 boats for the whole weekend.

The main advice from Estrada is planning the trip and checking on the batteries and lights for the boat.

“You do have some mechanical breakdowns that you can’t help, but it’s the beginning of the season, so the battery has been sitting around for a while,” Estrada said. “That’s probably going to be a lot of the issues.”

Isom said DNR will be running six boats throughout the weekend, with two boats from Hall County. Forsyth County,

Isom said, will be running two boats and two jet skis.

“The No.1 job for the boater is to avoid a collision, so keep your wits and keep your eyes open,” Estrada said.