National Safe Boating Week raising awareness before holiday weekend

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HAMPTON, Tenn. (WJHL) — National Safe Boating Week is underway from May 22-28. It starts annually the weekend before Memorial Day Weekend.

Water and boating safety experts want you to know how to stay safe while you’re enjoying our lakes and rivers.

“Make sure you’re always wearing a life jacket that’s properly fitted and sized; make sure that you’re wearing it — it only works when it’s on,” said Collins Jones, a TWRA wildlife officer of Johnson County.

“At least have it accessible, which means don’t have it stored somewhere where you can’t get it; because if you’ve ever tried to put on a PFD while your boat is capsized while you’re floating in the water, it’s not easy to do,” said Scott Fisher, the owner of Nolichucky Outdoor Learning Institute.

In 2020, as people were eager to find safe ways to get out of the house, The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency reported a significant increase in traffic on the state’s lakes and rivers. Unfortunately, that came with 32 boating-related deaths, a record high.

Already in 2021, TWRA has reported seven fatalities on the waterways it patrols.

They advise you take caution if you choose to drink.

“Have a designated driver, just like you would in a car,” said Jones. “Drinking on water is different from drinking on land; there’s the conditions of the lake, the waves, the roar of the motor — it all adds up; it can make it feel like you’ve drank more than you actually have.”

These rules don’t just apply to larger and motorized boats. You should also practice boating safety while using smaller, self-powered boats like kayaks and canoes.

“Some of these $200 boats you can get at the big box stores; it’s fine, but make sure it’s suitable for the water you’re on,” said Fisher.

“We’re small, and those motorboats are fast and large,” said Debbie Briscoe with the Nolichucky Outdoor Living Institute. “Don’t expect them to get out of your way, you have to be responsible and stay out of their way.”

Education makes a huge difference.

“Get some instruction; learn the right way, and then pass it on to your friends and your family, so it maximizes enjoyment; it maximizes everybody’s safety,” advised Fisher.

“If you’re out in the lake, and you’re traveling from point A to point B, stay together in a group, safety in numbers, and try to always have your head on a swivel and look around you and be aware of your surroundings at all times,” said Briscoe.

The TWRA and Nolichucky Outdoor Learning Institute both offer courses and information on water safety.

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