COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - The South Carolina Department of Natural Resources says they’ll be stepping up patrols on lakes and rivers across the state for the Memorial Day weekend. Officials say that makes this the perfect time for a reminder of the basics when it comes to boating safety.
Remember, there are free boater education classes offered by DNR, which are required for anyone under the age of 16 wanting to operate a boat. Officials say more law enforcement, additional boating safety laws, and the development of boating education classes have helped to reduce the number of boating fatalities over the last several decades.
While the trend of boating accidents is on the rise as the number of registered boaters goes up, there has been a slight decline in the number of deaths each year.
One DNR officer says some boaters will be out on the water for the first time of the season for Memorial Day weekend, which is why it’s even more important to go over the key boating safety tips.
“You’ve got to know the rules of the road, got to know your navigational markers, who has the right of way, who doesn’t. Not to mention, the other required safety equipment depending on what kind of vessel you’re in. There are other things such as a throw cushion, a fire extinguisher and a sound device that you are required to have,” says DNR Officer JB Smith.
Officials say the most important piece of equipment to have – whether you’re on a kayak or a large boat – is a properly fitting life vest.
Officer Smith says that one of the first steps to safety begins before you even leave home.
“I would encourage folks to create what’s called a Float Plan. A Float Plan starts before you ever leave your house, before you ever begin your journey to the water. That’s going to tell everybody where you’re going, who you’re with and what your plan is for return and also what kind of vessel you’re in. So that if there is an issue on the water, we know where you are and hopefully we can locate you sooner.”
The Palmetto State has more recreational boaters than most other states. South Carolina is sixth in the nation for the number of registered boats, with more than 525,000 reported in 2018.