Water safety an important issue for boaters during Memorial Day Weekend

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 25, 2005

With the Memorial Day Weekend Holiday quickly approaching, the Alabama Marine Police are taking steps to make sure this is a no fatality holiday. In doing so, they have announced the week of May 21-27 as National Boating Safety Week.

According to national figures, 703 deaths occurred in 2003 nationally. Of those deaths, 86 percent were not wearing their life jackets or personal flotation devices, even though they were aboard the vessel.

According to Shipman and the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, there were 22 deaths on lakes throughout the state in 2004.

Email newsletter signup

So far this year there have been two deaths on Alabama waterways. The first occurred on Smith Lake in Winston County when a father and son were thrown from their vessel. Neither was wearing their personal floatation devices nor was the father wearing the vehicle’s kill switch. After a period of time, the father drowned and another vehicle was able to rescue the son. That incident is still under investigation according to the Department of Conservation.

The second death occurred on Holt Lake, near Rocky Branch in Tuscaloosa County. The operator was using a vehicle that fell below the horsepower requirements for having to use a kill-switch. He was trying to put on a pfd and let go of the boat’s tiller when it hit a wave and threw him from the boat.

Shipman also said that officers will check for the lifejacket/personal floatation device to be in good, working condition.

Boaters who have an encounter with the members of the state’s marine police will be expected to show their registration, their operators license and will check for life jackets.

Boaters who feel the need to take alcohol out on to the water will do so at their own risk. An operator with a blood alcohol content above .10 is 10 times more likely to die in a boating accident than an operator with zero blood alcohol, according to the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

Stressors such as sun, vibration, noise and other environmental elements affect the body more when you consume alcohol. Operating a boat under the influences of alcohol or drugs is illegal in all state and violation of federal law.

According to Shipman, if a person gets caught BUI, boating under the influence, fines are nearly the same as if a person gets caught driving under the influence on the highway.

While BUI, is a commonly known crime, there are others that Shipman mentioned that sometimes go un-noticed.

The Department of Conservation also advises boaters that if they get into emergency situations to carry a cell phone with them.