05/23/08 — Boat safety important as holiday looms

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Boat safety important as holiday looms

By Ryan Hanchett
Published in Sports on May 23, 2008 4:26 PM

Memorial Day weekend will mark the opening of boating season for many North Carolina sportsmen.

With that in mind, the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission is asking boaters to remember the laws in order to stay safe on the water.

"Because this is the first big week, with so many people on the water, we want to remind everyone to check their equipment and be careful," said N.C. boating safety coordinator Chris Huebner.

The first thing for every boat owner or operator to make note of, is that life jackets are required, and must be readily accessible for all passengers. Also, children under the age of 13 are required to wear a life vest at all times while riding in/on a recreational vehicle.

"Not only do the passengers each need to have a life vest on board, but those jackets must also be the appropriate size," said Huebner. "Putting a child in an adult vest is not only a violation of the state guidelines, but in an emergency situation that vest can slip over the child's head.

"Boaters need to make sure to check the U.S. Coast Guard tag inside the vest to make sure it is the correct size."

In addition, any vessel over 16 feet in length must have a throwable personal floatation device.

Depending on the construction of the craft, some boaters may also be required to carry a fire extinguisher.

"Before the boat even goes into the water, the extinguisher should be checked," said Huebner. "People need to look at the gauges and the pressure, as well as the continuity of the tank."

Additionally, every boat launched in the state of North Carolina must have a valid registration displayed prominently on the side of the vessel.

As is the case with any motorized vehicle, drinking and driving is a serious violation. Boaters on the water while inebriated are three times as likely to have an accident.

Anyone caught operating a boat under the influence of alcohol is subject to a sobriety test. If the operator of the vessel is found to have a blood alcohol level above .08 percent, Huebner said operator will be subject to immediate arrest.

"The statutes regarding the water are actually a little bit different than the ones for the highways," said Huebner. "Even if a boater is under the .08 designation, they still can be arrested for operating a vessel while impaired.

"There are so many more factors on the water, such as engine noise, heat from the sun, vibration and wake. With those all coming into play, it is at an officer's discretion whether or not the operator of a boat is impaired to the point of being removed."