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KY Afield Outdoors: Safe boating stressed for July 4 holiday
Increased boat traffic on a holiday weekend makes for more congested waterways and leaves less room for error
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By Kevin Kelly
KY Afield Outdoors Magazine, KY Fish & Wildlife
FRANKFORT, KY - With the Fourth of July falling on a Friday this year, Kentucky's lakes and rivers will be teeming with boaters enjoying the long holiday weekend. Officials with the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources want it to be a fun and safe experience for everyone.
"There's nothing better than a day on the water," said Zac Campbell, the department's boating education coordinator. "It's a great way to spend quality time with your family and friends. But a great day on the water can turn tragic in a matter of seconds.
"Always be prepared with your safety equipment. Have a float plan and make sure you're watching out for everybody on board."
The increased boat traffic on a holiday weekend makes for more congested waterways and leaves less room for error.
Boat operators are advised to pay close attention to navigational rules and to drive cautiously in crowded areas. Scan the water around you, looking for swimmers, tubers, skiers, personal watercraft operators and floating debris.
"Even if you do everything properly, you still have to watch out for the other guy," Campbell said. July was the leading month for boat accidents nationwide last year, according to the U.S. Coast Guard's 2013 Recreational Boating Statistics report.
Operator inattention was the top contributing factor in boating mishaps last year followed by improper lookout, operator inexperience and excessive speed, according to the North American Safe Boating Campaign. Alcohol use was the sixth highest contributing factor in boating accidents across the country last year.
Kentucky Fish and Wildlife conservation officers will be out in full force over the holiday weekend to help ensure the safety of those on the water.
Conservation officers will be on the lookout for impaired boaters but also checking that boats are equipped with the required safety equipment.
"Especially life jackets, which are proven to be a vital tool in saving lives on the water," said Maj. Shane Carrier, boating law administrator with Kentucky Fish and Wildlife. Before leaving the ramp, or dock, check that you have the following:
"As the operator you're responsible for everybody's safety on board, including your own," Campbell said. "After the fireworks are over, it might be a good idea to stay put a little while and let the boat traffic clear out.
"Sometimes it's really difficult to see which direction boats are moving. Be careful. Be attentive. Don't be a distracted operator. If you have enough people, get a spotter to help you out by being a lookout while you're driving."
Statistics show that people who have taken a boater education course are less likely to be involved in a boating accident, Campbell said.
In Kentucky, children ages 12-17 years old who operate a personal watercraft or boat with a 10-horsepower motor or greater must have a safe boating certificate.
Boater education courses are offered in person around the state at no charge and online for a fee. All in-person courses require online pre-registration. For more information, including course schedules, visit Kentucky Fish and Wildlife's website at Boat Kentucky Course.
Kevin Kelly is a staff writer for Kentucky Afield magazine, the official publication of the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. He is an avid angler with a passion for muskellunge and stream fishing.
-30- The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources manages, regulates, enforces and promotes responsible use of all fish and wildlife species, their habitats, public wildlife areas and waterways for the benefit of those resources and for public enjoyment. Kentucky Fish and Wildlife is an agency of the Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet. For more information on the department, visit our website at fw.ky.gov.
This story was posted on 2014-06-27 04:11:43
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