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#06-141 May 29, 2006

Summer boating safety enforcement, education increased in South Carolina

Beginning Memorial Day weekend and throughout the summer, law enforcement officers with the S.C. Department of Natural Resources will be patrolling the state’s waterways and conducting courtesy boat inspections.

“This weekend, S.C. Department of Natural Resources (DNR) officers statewide will be conducting boating safety inspections at public boat landings,” said Col. Alvin Taylor, deputy director of DNR’s Law Enforcement Division in Columbia. “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. This is all about safety. During these scheduled courtesy safety inspections, DNR officers will be available to talk with boaters and answer enforcement and safety questions.”

Courtesy watercraft inspections are scheduled for the following locations this weekend:

For precise information on days and times for courtesy boating inspections, contact the DNR News and Communications Office in Columbia at (803) 734-4133. For a listing of public boat landings, title and registration requirements, boating laws, regulations and safety tips, visit http://www.dnr.sc.gov/boating. You can also find out about boating safety courses and information on how to obtain a free float plan form by contacting the DNR Boating Safety Office at 1-800-277-4301; (843) 953-9302 in Charleston, or (803) 734-3995 in Columbia.

With more than 400,000 registered boaters in South Carolina and increasing population density along coastal counties, it is extremely important the boater education be a priority before heading out on state waterways.

Already this year, four people have died in boating accidents in South Carolina. In 2005 and 2004, 13 people died in boating accidents on state waters each year—that’s down from 33 boating fatalities in 2003. “DNR attributes the sharp decline in boating deaths to an increased boating safety awareness effort, such as courtesy boat inspections,” Taylor said. “We hope to see a continued decline. We want to make the waterways a safer place for families and boating enthusiast.”

Beginning this weekend and 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.

DNR encourages all boaters to use a designated driver in their boat, just like in an automobile. Don’t risk it. It’s extremely dangerous and against the law to operate a boat while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. 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. In South Carolina, any person involved in an accident that causes a death or serious injury faces an implied consent alcohol test and serious penalties with a maximum of 25 years imprisonment and up to a $25,000 fine.

According to DNR Lt. Chisolm Frampton, “Boaters should pay attention to their surroundings on the water. Please remember that operating a watercraft while under the influence of alcohol or drugs is illegal and that negligent operation leads to boating accidents. We want boaters to be safe, and we will be out on the waterways to make sure that they are complying with the law.”

Also, before going out on the water file a float plan. It’s as easy as telling someone where you’re going and when you plan to return. That way, if you run into trouble, DNR and other authorities will know where to begin their search. In an emergency, minutes count. Play it safe and file a float plan.

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

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