Troopers warn of boat safety ahead of holiday weekend

With summer fast approaching, Marine Patrol troopers are working to make sure you stay safe on the water.

Posted: May 23, 2018 9:43 AM
Updated: May 23, 2018 4:37 PM

Memorial Day weekend is the unofficial start to summer but with the fun, also comes some serious danger.

In 2016, the Coast Guard counted 4,463 boasting accidents that involved 701 deaths. 

Alcohol is one of the leading factors in boating accidents and accounted for 15% of deaths. 

"Everybody says 'not me, it's not going to happen to us' everybody has to be careful,'" said Senior Alabama State Trooper, Marine Division. 

Watson has spent 11 years patrolling the water. This week, his team is getting ready for a busy holiday weekend on Lake Guntersville.

"The water on the lake is wonderful, boating over here is wonderful, its a beautiful area, but you have to be safe the same as you do on the road," said Watson. 

Watson says often times the rules of boating are overlooked.

His job is to keep the water safe by checking boats and making sure everyone is following the law. 

That includes arresting anyone for driving a boat while drinking alcohol.

" .08, it's the same as a car on the road. We have all these safety things in place. We're not trying to ruin your time by coming and checking your safety equipment and talking to you. We just want to go home and we want you to be able to go home too. We don't want to have to look for you or look for your loved ones," explained Watson. 

One of the most important things to remember, according to troopers. is every person on a boast must have the right size life jacket at all times. While adults don't have to wear their life jacket all the time, children under 8-year-old do.

"When we pull up to check a boat that's one of the first things we'll ask for. If there's 8 people on the boat, we want to see 8 life jackets," said Chuck Ellis, Senior Alabama State Trooper, Marine Division. 

"Life jackets are our seat-belts," added Watson. 

In 2016, Coast Guard data shows operator inattention contributed to almost 600 accidents and nearly 50 deaths.

"People will let their kids, grand-kids, ride on the front of a pontoon boat with their feet dangling off the front. There's boats going every direction and if their feet catch on a wave you didn't see. It pulls them off and most of the time if a child gets hurt its the person who loves them the most that hurt them," said Watson. 

Through enforcing water safety, troopers want everyone to remember the rules and stay safe this summer.

"You're job is to be safe and our job is to help everyone stay as safe as possible," added Watson. 

Troopers say you can bet they'll have all water ways and roads covered this holiday weekend looking for people drinking and driving.

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