Archived Story

Marine police urge boaters to stay safe this summer

Published 3:30pm Thursday, June 21, 2012

Lake-goers should keep in mind that staying safe is a key element when having fun on Lake Martin.

Marine Police Sgt. Gary Buchanan said one thing to remember when it comes to safety is common sense.

“The number one thing as far as boating safety is not drinking and driving,” Buchanan said. “That’s one of the primary things that we look for when we’re out on patrol is people that are drinking and driving a boat. So it’s important to have a designated driver.”

Buchanan said it’s also important to “pay attention to your surroundings.”

“A lot of times accidents happen just from the operator’s not paying attention, such as talking to other people on the boat, or not paying attention to other things that are going on around them,” Buchanan said.

Buchanan said it’s the law for boaters to have an observer that is at least 12 years old or a rearview mirror that’s at least 78 square inches when pulling someone on a tube, kneeboard, wakeboard, skis or others water sport equipment.

“You’re required to have an observer so you can pay attention to the person that’s on the tube so that you’ll know when they fall off,” he said.

However, if someone were to fall into the water Buchanan said they should do anything they can to stay more visible such as waving their arms or holding a ski in the air.

Buchanan said boat drivers should also pay attention to the length of their towrope.

“Be mindful for instance when you’re taking turns and driving in congested areas, because we have had incidents where people pulling a tube made a turn and then it caused the people on the tube to hit a dock or another boat.”
Buchanan said it’s also important for boaters driving at night to make sure that all of their navigation lights are working properly.

“As the weather gets hotter people like to go out in the evening, because it’s cooler and the waters calmer,” Buchanan said. “If they are going to be out at night, they need to make sure all of their navigation lights are working, and then they need to take a flash light and maybe some spare bulbs. You also can’t ride down the lake with your docking lights on because it will obscure the navigational lights and blind people in front of you.”

Buchanan also said it’s important for swimmers and other water sport enthusiasts to stay safe when they’re having fun on the lake.

Those swimming around docks should be careful about swimming out toward areas where boat traffic passes. He said it is best to avoid those high traffic areas.

“You always have to be mindful if you’re swimming around places like Chimney rock,” Buchanan said. “A boat propeller will really hurt you so you want to stay away from the back part of a boat. Also, don’t assume that a person driving a boat sees you because they may not; that goes back to that whole paying to attention to your surrounding things.”

Buchanan said another safety tip to keep in mind is having one life jacket on a watercraft for each person that is readily accessible. Children 8 years and younger must wear a life jacket at all times when on a watercraft.
While staying safe is important, injury cannot always be prevented.

Buchanan said in a situation of accident or injury, call 911 and any of the dispatchers around the lake will get in touch with the Marine Police.

“Of course in a situation where your boat is broken down or you run out of gas, then the best thing you can do is call a local tow company,” Buchanan said.

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