DNR stepping up patrols to keep boaters safe during hot summer months
More people on the water means more boating incidents like drownings, BUIs
LAKE LANIER, Ga. (CBS46) - As temperatures heat up, Georgians are flocking to lakes to cool down.
But more people on the water also means more boating incidents like drownings and boating-under-the-influence (BUI) citations.
There have been 54 boating incidents, 36 drownings, 11 boating fatalities and 179 BUIs in Georgia this year, according to Georgia Department of Natural Resources (DNR).
Boating fatalities are classified as occurring when the victim enters the water from a boat that’s in motion, even if the official cause of death is drowning. A drowning is classified when the victim enters the water from any stationary object, including a tied boat, and the official cause of death is drowning.
Over the July 4 holiday weekend, 37 BUIs were reported statewide, according to DNR statistics. Operation Dry Water was conducted from July 2-4, and consisted of DNR agents, the U.S. Coast Guard and the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators.
During a recent patrol of Lake Lanier, DNR Sgt. Jason Roberson pulled over four boats for safety checks, which consist of making sure the boater has life jackets for everyone, a throw cushion and a fire extinguisher on board. Under Georgia law, children under 13 are required to wear a life jacket.
Roberson stopped another boat for going too fast in a no-wake zone.
“Any time you’re in a no-wake zone here, you need to be a lot slower than you just were,” Roberson told the boater. “It’s a big safety issue. Those no-wake zones are there because it’s a congested area with a lot of boats in the area and so we want you to slow down so that everybody gets through there safely.”
In 2022, DNR figures show 19 boating incidents, seven drownings, one boating fatality and 66 BUIs on Lake Lanier.
Over the last five years, BUI citations have increased across state waters.
“What people get blindsided by is the effect of alcohol on your body with the heat, wind, and wave action,” Roberson said. “Just the amount of alcohol consumed when you’re in the heat, it tends to go up, and it sneaks up on people.
During the patrol, Roberson found one violation but did not issue any citations. That’s because, he said, it’s not about punishing people, but rather educating them on boating safety practices.
“The education aspect of what we do is the most important thing,” he said.
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