Boaters Urged to Practice Safety

During the Memorial Day weekend, an increased number of boaters are expected to take to the water. With this increase in traffic, the possibility of accidents also increases. Sadly, there have already been nine boating-related fatalities on Alabama's waterways this year. Lt. Erica Shipman of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources’ Marine Police says that even with the increase in boater traffic, mishaps can be avoided if some simple rules are followed.

1.  No one under the age of 12 may operate any kind of motorized vessel. Anyone 12 or older, who operates a boat, must have an operator’s license. 12-14 year olds may only operate with someone 21 years old or older, in the boat, within reach of the steering mechanism. Anyone 14 years old or older may operate alone, providing he or she has a valid operator’s license.

2.  Know your boat’s load limit.  Don’t overload beyond the safe loading capacity indicated on the capacity plate. Always carry the required safety equipment and know how to use it.

3.  Keep personal floatation devices accessible. Wearable PFDs (type I, II, III or V) are required for all boats. Type IV seat cushions are required on all boats 16 feet or longer, in addition to the wearable types noted above. All PFDs must be U.S. Coast Guard approved, sized to fit, and readily available at all times. Personal watercraft operators and passengers, persons being towed, and people operating a vessel within 800 feet below a dam are required to wear PFDs. Children under age eight must wear a PFD at all times when aboard a vessel.

4.  Know the rules of the road. Boat operators are required to maintain a proper lookout at all times to prevent accidents.

5.  Don’t overdo boating fun. A condition known as boater’s fatigue (caused by motion, noise, sun, wind and glare), can, in just three hours of normal boating activity, double reaction time and affect judgment and balance.

6.  Leave the alcohol on shore. A drink or two may make your day more enjoyable and relaxing, but it can also slow reaction time, reduce coordination, vision, and balance.  If you factor in boater’s fatigue, the combination could be deadly. Alcohol is associated with over 60 percent of boating accidents and 50 percent of boating fatalities.

“It is imperative that boaters practice safety,” said Shipman. “The Alabama Marine Police will be out in full force to make sure boaters are following the rules and keeping the waterways safe.”

For more information on boating safety, contact the Alabama Marine Police at (334) 242-3673 or visit www.outdooralabama.com.

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