Avoid Independence Day Boating Collisions, Serious Injuries

GREENSBORO, N.C. -- More boating accidents happen in July than in any other month, according to the U.S. Coast Guard, so boaters are urged to use caution and know the boating rules this Fourth of July.

Brandon Schroll, parts manager of Boats Unlimited in Greensboro, reminded lake-goers congestion is prevalent on the Fourth. He said people must pay attention to the crowded main channels and avoid doing water sports in areas of heavy traffic. He suggested doing those water sports in mornings or evenings, so long as boaters are mindful of the time-of-day rule--no water sports between one hour after sunset and one hour before sunrise.

Schroll said the safest place to swim or relax in the water on the Fourth is in coves or near docks--out of the way of the main channel. Schroll advised people to stay to the right side of the waterways, so as to reduce the chance of potential collisions.

Boat ramps, too, are likely be congested, so Schroll said it is critical for everyone to bring with them a weather radar--like the WFMY News 2 weather app. He said when storms occur, people rush to the boat ramp and try to get out of the water as quickly as possible. This can create safety hazards at the ramp, especially when people are panicking.

In addition to congestion in the water, extra volume on boats during holidays is another safety concern. Schroll affirmed people tend to invite guests onto their watercrafts during holidays. So, he said boat owners need to make sure there are enough life vests for everyone on board. Boat owners also must keep in mind everyone under the age of 13 must wear a life jacket at all times, and no one under the age of 26 can drive the boat unless he or she has taken an approved boater safety course.

The boat's maximum capacity (as listed on the warning label) also must be abided by. Schroll said wildlife resource officers on patrol typically look for maximum person capacity, but maximum weight capacity is critical, also.

Night boating dangers are specifically relevant to the Fourth of July, as more people than usual want to hit the water to watch fireworks after sundown.

Schroll said some lakes do not have varying speeds for day versus night, so boaters must use their own conscience to reduce speed at night.

"Don't go faster than you can see," Schroll said. The NC Wildlife Resources Commission affirmed at night, visibility is reduced and inland lighting rules are in effect.

Personal watercrafts--like jet skis, wave runners and sea dos--are prohibited from use at night, because they are not equipped with lights.

During this Fourth, the NC Highway Patrol, Wildlife Resources Commission and local law enforcement agencies will enforce the "On the Road, on the Water, Don't Drink and Drive" campaign. Each lake has different rules on alcohol. City lakes--like Lake Townsend, Lake Brandt and Lake Higgins--do not allow alcohol at all. Other lakes--like Belews Lake and Badin Lake-- do allow it but prohibit boat drivers from driving with .08 or more alcohol in their systems.

Watch WFMY News 2 Thursday for a an inside look at holiday boating safety rules.


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