Boat and water safety heading into Memorial Day weekend

APPLING, Ga. (WJBF) – School is out, and the unofficial start of summer is this weekend. That means many people will be on the water for the next few months.

Park rangers say taking a few precautions when heading to the lake or river is essential.

One of the most important safety tips when boating or swimming is wearing a life jacket. Children 12 years old and under are required to wear a lifejacket on a boat.

“The most important thing is to wear your life jacket. Check it for damage, and check the label. Make sure it’s U.S. Coast Guard-approved. Make sure you wear it because it doesn’t work unless you wear it,” said Kevin Madsen, Park Ranger for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

If you are onshore and swimming, make sure to stay in the designated areas. According to Madsen, most drownings occur outside the area.

“People who overestimate their swimming abilities. They don’t think it’s so far out to that swim, but they don’t realize how tired they can be. Have that flotation, have that safety escort with a kayak or canoe. Somebody that can help you get you out of trouble but stay in the designated swim areas,” said Madsen.

Boats can be dangerous when moving. When in motion, it’s important to stay in an official seat and not stand up on a boat, as well as to make sure you do not weigh down your boat.

“Every boat has a capacity, and that’s what I think people need to worry about. Whether you are in a kayak, a canoe, or a motorized boat, there is going to be a weight limit,” said Andy Colbert, the co-owner of Outdoor Augusta.

Officials say many boaters get dehydrated, so they want you to make sure you stay hydrated and not drinking alcohol before or while operating a boat.

“Alcohol is certainly a part of a lot of holidays, and people forget, you know, how to act, you know,” said Colbert.

Just make sure to keep these tips in mind, and you should be good to go.

“Use your common sense. I always tell people, you know, don’t cross that stupid line, whatever that may be,” said Madsen.

Although Adults are not required to wear life jackets, if one of the J. Strom Thurmond Lake rangers sees you in one, you can get a special prize.

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