In an effort to keep state waterways safe over the upcoming Labor Day holiday weekend, the S.C. Department of Natural Resources Law Enforcement Division will again be conducting courtesy safety inspections at some public boat landings.
The Labor Day holiday weekend is considered the last blast of summer and one of the busiest weekends of the year on state waters. “Boaters who choose to participate in the free inspections may do so at designated landings where the inspections are offered,” said Col. Alvin Taylor, deputy director of the S.C. Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Law Enforcement Division. “It only takes a few minutes and will make your day safer and more enjoyable on the water.”
DNR boating safety and enforcement officers will perform a quick, but thorough, inspection for items such as required safety equipment and proper boat and motor registration. “Those who are not in compliance with safety regulations or registration requirements will not be ticketed during the complimentary inspections,” Taylor said. “Instead, they will be given an opportunity to correct the problem before they launch their boat. DNR officers will also be available to answer questions and give boaters tips on how to stay safe on the water.
“We urge all boaters and water sports enthusiasts to be safety conscious, use lifesaving equipment, don't drink alcohol while operating a boat, obey the law and stay aware at all times of others in and around the water. Remember to wear your lifejacket while boating and enjoying water sports. Life jackets save lives,” Taylor said.
So far this year, nine people have died in boating accidents in South Carolina, compared to a total of 13 boating fatalities in each of the past two years, 2005 and 2004.
Obeying boating laws and rules should keep most boaters safe and out of trouble. It is against the law, and extremely dangerous, to operate a boat while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. In South Carolina, individuals involved in an accident that causes a death or serious injury face an implied consent alcohol test and serious penalties with a maximum of 25 years imprisonment and a $25,000 fine. Having a designated operator when boating will save lives and prevents accidents. In South Carolina, the maximum allowable blood alcohol count for watercraft operators was lowered from .10 to .08 in August 2003. This new level is being enforced on state waters and violators charged for boating under the influence.
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 Coast Guard-approved personal flotation device. Anyone on a personal watercraft, including 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.
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.
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.