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#06-171 July 3, 2006

Boating safety enforcement stepped up over July 4 holiday

The S.C. Department of Natural Resources will be out in force patrolling the state’s waterways this July 4 holiday weekend, traditionally the busiest boating time of the year in South Carolina.

“Again this weekend, as we have throughout the summer, DNR boating safety officers will be focused in ‘saturation’ patrols on lakes, rivers, reservoirs and our coastal waters in an effort to reduce boating accidents, injuries and fatalities,” said Col. Alvin Taylor, deputy director for the DNR Law Enforcement Division in Columbia. “Our goal is to make the waterways a safer place for boaters and families by increasing our visibility and DNR presence on the water.”

South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (DNR) law enforcement officers patrolling the state’sDNR Law Enforcement waterways over the long July 4 holiday weekend will be on the lookout for dangerous boating behavior, such as negligent or reckless operation and boating under the influence; major causes of boating accidents, injuries and fatalities, Taylor said.

So far this year, six people have died in boating accidents in South Carolina. There were a total of 13 boating deaths in each of the previous two years, 2005 and 2004; 33 deaths in 2003; 14 in 2002; 18 in 2001 and 15 in 2000.

“We are working to reduce boating accidents injuries and fatalities by placing an increased emphasis on boating safety patrols, combined with a heightened boating safety public awareness initiative,” Taylor said.

In 2004, DNR launched its new “Zippit” boating safety campaign. “Zippit” is a life-size lifejacket mascot that will be seen around the state on billboards and at public boat landings and special events. “Zippit” promotes the importance of wearing your life jacket and to always make safety a priority while boating and on the water. This weekend, at select areas around the state, the DNR (B-SAF) boating safety saturation team, will be handing out “I Got Caught Wearing My Life Jacket” T-shirts to children who are seen wearing their life jackets during routine boating safety inspections.

State and national statistics indicate that more than 90 percent of all boating fatalities could be prevented with the proper use of life jackets.

Additionally, for boaters who would like to have a check of their safety equipment before they hit the water, DNR officers will be conducting boating safety inspections at some public boat landings over the holiday weekend. “These courtesy inspections are being offered to ensure that all boaters have the required safety equipment on-board their vessel before they launch their boat,” Taylor said. “This is all about safety and averting a potentially dangerous situation before it becomes a problem.” During these courtesy inspections, DNR officers will be available to talk with boaters and answer enforcement and safety questions.

Obeying boating laws and rules will keep most boaters safe and out of trouble:

To report boating violations such as reckless operation or an intoxicated boat operator, call the DNR toll-free, 24-hour hotline at 1-800-922-5431.

For a copy of South Carolina’s Boating Regulations, to find out about local boating safety courses or to obtain a free float plan form, contact the DNR Boating Safety Office at 1-800-277-4301; (843) 953-9302 in Charleston or (803) 734-3995 in Columbia, or visit the DNR Web site at http://www.dnr.sc.gov/boating/index.html.

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