PIERRE, S.D. – As the Fourth of July holiday approaches, the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks (GFP) is joining a national effort to highlight boating safety.
Operation Dry Water will take place June 30 – July 2, 2017, promoting boating safety and responsible use of alcohol while boating across the country.
“We want to ensure that recreational boaters, paddlers, kayakers and others have a safe place to enjoy South Dakota’s waters,” said Joe Keeton, boating law administrator. “Alcohol impairs judgment and reaction time on the water just as it does when driving a car, even more so because with the added stressors of sun, heat, wind and noise on a boat. Choosing to consume alcohol while boating puts everyone at risk, including passengers and people in the water. Our goal is to remove anyone choosing to operate a vessel impaired and to keep everyone on the water safe.”
Alcohol consumption and boating continues to be an issue and is listed as the leading known contributing factor in all fatal boating accidents nationwide. As part of the national event, GFP will conduct extra boating safety patrols statewide to promote safe and responsible boating practices heading into the holiday weekend.
Tips to staying safe on the water this summer:
- Boat sober. Alcohol use is the leading contributing factor in recreational boater deaths*. Alcohol and drugs use impairs a boater’s judgment, balance, vision and reaction time.
- Wear your life jacket. 83% of drowning victims were not wearing a life jacket*.
- Take a boating safety education course. 77% of deaths occurred on boats where the operator did not receive boating safety instruction, where instruction was known*.
- Use your engine cut-off device. Many boating accidents involve operators or passengers who have fallen overboard. Wearing an engine cut-off switch lanyard or wireless engine cut-off device will shut the engine down if the operator is ejected or falls overboard.
- File a float plan. Leave a float plan with at least one person on land so they know where to find you if needed. You should be able to rely on this person to notify local law enforcement if you do not return within a reasonable hour of expectancy.
- Check the weather. Not only can poor weather spoil a trip, but it can also cause an emergency situation out on the water.
Keeton noted that state regulations require all children under age seven to wear an approved personal flotation device anytime a boat is moving at greater than no-wake speed. He recommends taking the next step and keeping a personal flotation device on all occupants in the boat at all times.
“Before heading onto the water, check your equipment,” Keeton said. “Fire extinguishers, life jackets, throw-able flotation devices are required and must be in good working condition. The best way to prevent an unwanted tragedy on the water is to be prepared.”
Visit operationdrywater.org or gfp.sd.gov/fishing-boating/boating/boating-safety-tips.aspx for more information about boating under the influence.