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Georgia DNR provides boater safety tips ahead of summer…

After boating season began on Lake Lanier over Memorial Day weekend, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources reminded the public of several boater safety tips to help them stay safe throughout the summer.

Mark McKinnon, spokesman for the Georgia DNR's Division of Law Enforcement, told AccessWDUN that the department has seen significantly fewer boating accidents statewide than in previous years. He attributed this to the sporadic rainy weather throughout the weekend.

There were only two accidents on Lake Lanier over the weekend, both involving watercraft.

The first incident occurred on the evening of May 26 and involved a collision between two jet skis near Lake Lanier Park in Gwinnett County. In the second incident on May 27, a person fell from a watercraft and injured his foot while re-entering a boat. Both incidents resulted in minor injuries to those involved.

Nevertheless, DNR officers arrested 29 people for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, 15 of them on Lake Lanier.

“We don't like to see that,” McKinnon told AccessWDUN. “It just poses a danger to the public, it poses a danger to the impaired boater.”

As the public spends more time on the water, McKinnon advises boaters to remember the importance of boats being equipped with life jackets and other safety resources.

“Always have enough life jackets for everyone on board,” he said. “And if you really want to be safe, wear your life jacket. Life jackets used to be big, bulky and hot, but now there are models of lightweight jackets that are very comfortable, not hot and not annoying. There really is no good excuse not to wear them.”

McKinnon added that while adults may voluntarily wear life jackets on boats, children under 13 are required to wear a life jacket at all times, both in the water and on the boat.

He also stressed that the best way to ensure the safety of everyone on the water is to never operate a watercraft while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

“Do not operate a boat if you are under the influence of alcohol or drugs,” McKinnon said. “If you are on the boat and want to drink, that is legal. However, we recommend that you hire a designated driver who does not drink, just as you would in a car… The motor skills are not there, the judgment is lacking.”

According to the DNR, 70 to 80 percent of boating accidents nationwide are caused by alcohol or drugs.

The influence of prescription drugs can also impair the ability to safely operate a boat or vehicle.

In addition, drivers of personal watercraft such as jet skis must wear a life jacket at all times, as well as an emergency stop switch that disables the device if the driver falls off.

McKinnon also noted that jet ski riders are the most likely to violate the 100-foot rule, which requires vehicles on the water to idle when they are within 100 feet of the shoreline.

“We see jet skis, whirring boats, jumping through the waves close behind boats, we see them driving at high speeds close to docks,” McKinnon said. “It's a recipe for disaster. We see a lot of people and incidents and sometimes there are fatalities every year because of people riding jet skis this way.”

Anna Harden

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