Boating Safety is No Accident

By May 26, 2016 News No Comments

Even our best friends need to wear a life preserver for their safety

Celebrate National Safe Boating Week May 21 – 27

As the temperature rises, so does the amount of visitors to Georgia’s lakes, rivers and coastal waters. Memorial Day is the unofficial start of the boating season, and with the holiday right around the corner, soon “old salts” and “landlubbers” will be sharing the waterways in everything from commercial vessels to recreational watercraft as thousands flock to popular boating destinations across the state.

Unfortunately, an increase in boaters also means an increased risk of boating accidents. In fact, Georgia officials have already seen more boating accidents than they normally do this time of year — leading many to worry that, after two years of steady decline, 2016 may see boating accidents on the rise in the Peach State.

Georgia Power hopes to reverse that trend. As the state’s largest non-governmental provider of recreational facilities, Georgia Power uses social media, a safety website, safety-related T-shirts and park signage to remind visitors to “Play It Safe at Georgia Power Lakes.” In recent years the company’s commitment to safety extended beyond its 15 lakes, eight campgrounds and more than 30,000 acres of wildlife management areas, and included teaming up with the National Safe Boating Council and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to promote safe boating practices across the state.

No matter what your mode of water transportation is – always wear your life jacket

National Safe Boating Week Is May 21 — 27

In honor of National Safe Boating Week, Georgia Power would like to remind you that before you visit one of our state’s many recreational areas, take some time to learn about water safety — including Georgia’s new boating laws and regulations, life jacket requirements, swimming safety tips, rules of the road and more.

Mark McKinnon, Georgia DNR Public Affairs Officer for Law Enforcement, echoes that sentiment. “The amount of boating accidents we’ve had already this year is worrisome,” says McKinnon. “We want to get the message out to people to be safe.”

According to McKinnon, the main safety points include:

1. Wear a life jacket (also called PFD, or personal flotation device)

  • Each vessel must have a life jacket for every passenger.
  • PFDs are required for all children under 13 years old and anyone riding a personal watercraft.
  • Today’s PFDs come in a variety of colors, models and sizes — making them easy to wear for adults, children and even pets!

Did You Know? In 80 percent of all fatal boating accidents, the cause of death is drowning. And in 90 percent of those drowning incidents, the person wasn’t wearing a life jacket.

2. Avoid alcohol

  • According to the U.S. Coast Guard, roughly half of all boating fatalities involve alcohol.
  • Penalties for Boating Under the Influence (BUI) in Georgia include large fines, jail time and possible suspension of operating privileges.
  • BUI can severely impair your ability to swim by making it more difficult to hold your breath, suppressing the natural gag reflex, disorienting those in the water, and diminishing coordination and strength. In fact, people who have been consuming alcohol may actually swim down instead of up when thrown in the water.

Did You Know? Operating a boat while intoxicated is a federal offense.

3. Perform an equipment safety check

  • Required boating safety equipment includes life jackets, a flotation device that can be thrown (for boats over 16 feet), a signaling device and a properly charged fire extinguisher.
  • Recommended safety equipment includes a flashlight, VHF radio, first-aid kit, sun protection, oars/paddles and extra fuel and water.
  • Consider taking advantage of a free vessel safety check from the U.S. Coast Guard.

Did You Know? Coast Guard and DNR enforcement may board your vessel at any time to perform a safety check for proper equipment.

4. Take a boating safety course

  • Boating classes offer introductory and basic information on topics such as:
    • Boat types
    • Boat operation
    • Legal requirements
    • Basic weather and boating emergencies

Did You Know? According to the U.S. Coast Guard, more than 80 percent of those involved in boating fatalities have never taken a boating safety course or had any other type of formal boating education.

Personal flotation devices required when sailing the open waters

Additional tips include:

  • Always swim with a buddy — When people swim together, they can help each other or go for help in case of an emergency.
  • Supervise children around water — Stay within arm’s reach, minimize distractions, and consider taking child and infant CPR to learn effective, life-saving techniques.
  • Learn boating safety rules — Before you enjoy the water, make sure you’re familiar with Georgia’s boating laws and regulations.

To learn more about boating safety, check out these additional resources:

Visit the Georgia Power website to learn more about water safety and explore the many recreational facilities on Georgia Power lakes.

Visit the Georgia Department of Natural Resources website for information on boating laws and education, including a schedule for the May 25 joint presentation of boating safety by the Governor’s Office of Georgia Highway Safety and the Georgia State Patrol.

Visit the North American Safe Boating Campaign website to learn about the Wear It! campaign and to download information on National Safe Boating Week.