As the weather warms up, S.C. DNR Region 4 officials are spreading the word that boater safety is crucial and they are willing to help ensure outings on the water are both fun and safe.
Officials from the region, which includes Dorchester and Colleton counties, are gearing up for National Safe Boating Week May 17-23.
“We join forces with the Coast Guard every year for National Safe Boating Week to put emphasis on the importance of safety anytime you are out on the water,” Region 4 1st SGT. Lee E. Ellis said. “In our area boating is a year-round activity but in other places the boating season doesn't really begin until Memorial Day weekend so it's a good idea to take a week in May and remind people to check their safety equipment to insure they have what the need and their equipment is in good condition before the boating season starts.”
At the end of the week the DNR will have courtesy boating inspections at Jessen Boat Landing. From 10 a.m. until noon on May 24, DNR officials will be available to preform safety checks to help boaters ensure they have 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. Instead, they will be given an opportunity to correct the problem before they launch their boat.
“It's better to figure out you don't have the proper registration or safety equipment during an inspection at a boat landing because if you get caught without those things on the water it could cost you,” Ellis said. “We also take that opportunity to remind people about the importance of wearing a lifejacket while underway and the dangers of driving a boat while under the influence of alcohol.”
State law requires only that all boats have a U.S. Coast Guard approved wearable (Type I,II,III, or V) life jacket on board for each person in the boat but Ellis says the DNR recommends people also wear lifejackets while the boat is moving.
According to the DNR, on average each year 700 people die in boating-related accidents nationwide. Nearly 80 percent of the victims were not wearing a life jacket.
DNR also recommends boaters should note and remember to be respectful of others and that they are responsible for any damage to another boat or property caused by their wake.
S.C. Department of Natural Resources Boating Safety Recommendations
Before you leave:
•Fill out a boating float plan and make sure you leave the plans with a responsible individual.
•Check the weather.
•Let someone know where you are going.
•Gather all lifesaving devices (Personal Flotation Devices). Make sure they are in good serviceable condition and are the correct size and fit for all passengers (especially children). A properly fitted life jacket is not only more comfortable but it functions better as well. Life jackets that are too small or too large can ride up when you're in the water – or even come off.
•Check the fuel and the battery charge.
•Make sure all lights are in good working condition on the boat and boat trailer.
•Make sure the fire extinguisher is readily accessible and in good serviceable condition.
•Put the plug in.
•Connect the trailer's safety chains to the towing vehicle.
•Carry a cellphone if possible.
On the Water
•Know the aids to navigation and buoy system in your areas and obey all the rules of the water.
•Don't operate the boat under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
•If someone falls overboard, throw something to them that will float (Personal Floatation •Device (PFD), raft, or cooler).
•All boats approaching from the right have the right of way.
•Always anchor from the bow of the boat and pull the anchor before leaving.
•If caught in a storm, head into the wind, put on PFD's and keep passengers low in the boat.
•Take a Boating Safety Course by calling 1-800-277-4301.
•Call Operation Game Thief (1-800-922-5431) to report boating, fishing or hunting violations.
•Practice good seamanship, Keep a proper look out and maintain a SAFE speed.