State natural resources officials urge boating and water safety during the upcoming Memorial Day weekend, one of the busiest times of the year on state waterways.
Boating safety laws will be strictly enforced, said Col. Alvin Taylor, deputy director for law enforcement with the S.C. Department of Natural Resources (DNR). "We urge all boaters and water sports enthusiasts to be safety conscious, use lifesaving equipment, obey the law and stay aware at all times of others in and around the water," Taylor said. "Remember to wear your lifejacket while boating and enjoying water sports this Memorial Day weekend and all summer long."
Already this year, four people have died in boating accidents in South Carolina. In each of the past two years, 2005 and 2004, 13 people died in boating accidents on state waters. That’s down from 33 boating fatalities in 2003. “DNR attributes the sharp decline in boating deaths to an increased boating safety awareness effort,” Taylor said. “We hope to see a continued decline.”
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
Throughout the spring and summer, DNR boating safety officers will be conducting boating safety inspections at public boat landings. “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. We want to be there for the boating public and hopefully avert a potentially dangerous situation before it becomes a problem. In addition, DNR will focus enforcement efforts in ‘saturation’ patrols on lakes, rivers, reservoirs and coastal waters.”
Obeying boating laws and rules should keep most boaters safe and out of trouble:
State law requires boating safety training for anyone younger than 16 who wants to operate a boat or personal watercraft with an engine 15-horsepower or greater without being accompanied by an adult. For questions concerning this requirement or boater education courses contact, DNR's Boating Education offices at 1-800-277-4301, (803) 734-3995 in Columbia or (843) 953-9302 in Charleston.
Any person younger than 12 in a boat less than 16 feet long must wear a personal flotation device. Anyone on a personal watercraft, which includes Jet Skis, Sea-Doos, WaveRunners and others, must wear a Coast Guard-approved flotation device; they cannot be operated after sunset or before sunrise; and they must be equipped with self-circling or lanyard-type engine cutoffs. No vessel may operate in excess of idle speed within 50 feet of an anchored vessel, dock, pier or person in the water, or within 100 yards of the Atlantic Ocean coastline. No one may jump the wake of another vessel within 200 feet of the vessel creating the wake.
When towing a water skier or person on a floating device, a boat must have an observer onboard or the vessel must be equipped with wide-angled mirrors. A sound-producing device, such as a horn or whistle, is required on all boats. Fire extinguishers are required on most boats.
It is against the law, and extremely dangerous, to operate a boat while impaired, under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Play it safe on the water and have a designated driver for the boat, just like you would on the road, in an automobile. On the water, the effects of alcohol or drugs are magnified by the elements of sun, wind and wave action. Alcohol also impairs coordination of arm and leg movements, slows response to emergency situations and makes it difficult for boat operators to scan the horizon.
Boat operators are also reminded that wearable personal floatation devices (PFDs or life jackets) are required for each person onboard. On boats 16 feet and longer throwable devices, such as flotation cushions, are required in addition to wearable devices. Life jackets must properly fit each individual, whether child or adult, and be serviceable without tears, holes or other damage or wear that would decrease the effectiveness of the device. More than 90 percent of all boating fatalities could be prevented with the proper use of life jackets.
Boating accidents resulting in the loss of life, loss of consciousness, personal injury requiring medical treatment or property damage in excess of $500 must be reported to the Department of Natural Resources. Failure to report an accident can result in a maximum fine of $5,000 for each violation.Report boating accidents or emergencies to the DNR toll-free, 24-hour hotline at 1-800-922-5431. This number can also be used to report boating violations such as reckless operation or an intoxicated boat operator.