After a Woodstock man drowned last Memorial Day weekend at Lake Allatoona, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources urges boaters to use caution and be safe on the lake this holiday weekend.
The assistant chief of GDNR Law Enforcement Division Lt. Col. Jeff Weaver said the department kicked off the summer season Friday and will have four boats patrolling Allatoona this weekend, looking for reckless boat operators, boaters under the influence of alcohol, improper boat lighting at night and other unsafe activity. Weaver said their main goal is to make it “a safe, enjoyable weekend for everybody.”
Weaver said two new boating laws are in effect this summer, including a lower cutoff for the blood alcohol level allowed for boat operators and the age of children required to wear lifejackets. The blood-alcohol content cutoff for boating under the influence went down from a .10 last year, to a .08 this year, the same cutoff for DUI.
Last year, the law required children 9 years old and younger to wear lifejackets, but this year children 12 years old and younger are now required to wear a lifejacket at all times while on a moving vessel.
Weaver said the DNR will work with local law enforcement and coordinate with agencies such as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Coast Guard Auxiliary this weekend.
Weaver said last Memorial Day on Lake Allatoona, two people were charged with BUI, there was one boating accident and one person drowned.
Weaver said on July 1, 2014, another new law will go into effect that will require mandatory boating education for Georgia boat operators born after Jan. 1, 1998.
“Have a safe, enjoyable weekend, look out for other people,” Weaver said. “If you choose to drink, make sure you have a sober operator.”
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and DNR offered some tips for boating and water safety this weekend:
• The 100-foot law requires all vessels within 100 feet of another vessel, public-use shoreline or structure to operate at speeds no greater than an idle.
• It is illegal for vessels to jump the wake of another vessel within 100 feet.
• Wear U.S. Coast Guard approved lifejackets.
• Check lifejackets for proper fit; it should not slip above the chin or ears when your shoulders are lifted.
• Learn how to swim but know your limits; even good swimmers can drown.
• Always swim with a buddy.
• Only swim in designated areas and go into the water feet-first.
• Keep an eye on children; don’t be distracted by reading, napping or a cellphone.
• Do not boat under the influence of alcohol or drugs, and do not boat alone; Let someone on shore know where you will take the boat.
• Use your boat’s running lights from dusk until dawn on the water.
• Leave the water at the first sign of bad weather and check conditions before launching a boat.
• Wear a lifejacket while on a boat.
• Know and follow the “water rules of the road.”