STATE: Wildlife Commission reminds boaters to be safe 

The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission, S.C. Department of Natural Resources, N.C. Highway Patrol and Mothers Against Drunk Driving will kick off the annual “On the Road, On the Water, Don’t Drink and Drivecampaign with community events and safety check points throughout the state in advance of and on Memorial Day weekend. The multi-agency safety initiative works to reduce alcohol-related incidents on the state’s roadways and waterways, both which see increased traffic during summer months.   

“Fatalities that could be avoided with more responsible behavior are always difficult to process,” said Lt. Nathan Green of the Wildlife Commission. “It’s imperative to designate a sober driver whether you’re in a vehicle or on a boat. Boaters can reduce the risk of alcohol related incidents by designating a sober operator.” 

During the campaign, law enforcement officers will be conducting sobriety checkpoints and promoting public awareness to deter impaired operation of cars and boats on various highways and bodies of water. In North Carolina, a driver or vessel operator with a blood-alcohol concentration that meets or exceeds .08 or is substantially impaired by alcohol and/or drugs, is subject to arrest. 

National Safe Boating Week – May 20-26 

The On the Road, On the Water campaign kicks off at the culmination of National Safe Boating Week, which started on Saturday and runs through this Friday. During National Safe Boating Week, as proclaimed by Gov. Roy Cooper on May 17, Wildlife Enforcement Officers are reminding people that safety should be a top priority when recreating on the water.    

“We cannot stress enough how important it is for you to wear a personal floatation device, or PFD, while boating, whether it be recreating, swimming or fishing,” said Capt. Branden Jones with the Wildlife Commission. “In 2022, 20 people lost their lives on North Carolina waters; 16 of them were not wearing a life vest. PFDs save lives, but they won’t work if you don’t wear them.” 

Boaters are urged to take the following precautions to ensure friends and family remain safe on the water: 

· Appoint a designated driver for the boat. Operating a boat under the influence of alcohol or drugs is illegal and is just as dangerous as driving a car impaired. 

· Assign an adult “Water Watcherto actively supervise children in or around the water at all times. Young children and people who are not strong swimmers should always be kept within arm’s reach. 

· Swim only in designated areas. You are less visible to boaters and more vulnerable to accidents. Avoid diving in unfamiliar areas, as there may be hidden structures. 

· Wear a life jacket or Coast Guard-approved personal floatation device (PFD) at all times. Put your life jacket on prior to entering the boat and make sure its snug, yet comfortable, and will not move above the chin or ears when lifted at the shoulders.  

· Throw, don’t go. Be prepared to throw a floatation device or use a pole or tree branch to reach someone struggling in the water. Never jump in to save someone because you could go under, too. 

· Attend a boater safety course. The Wildlife Commission offers an array of boating education classes. If you were born on or after Jan. 1, 1988, you must complete an approved course before operating any vessel propelled by a motor of 10 HP or greater.  

For more information on boating safety and regulations, visit ncwildlife.org/boating or call 919-707-0031.