Sam Roistacher with the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office was one of several local leaders who updated members of the media about boating safety last week. (Photo: Staff)

As temperatures heat up, the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office and other authorities are reminding the public how to be safe while boating, which is a popular local summer activity.

Sgt. Matt Purvis with the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office, along with other law enforcement and personnel, will be on the water this summer to make sure area residents are abiding by the laws and avoiding danger.

“Our primary focus is to let the citizens have fun, but they need to be safe while doing it,” he said. “Will be on the water on all major holidays, on all events that are occurring, and random times throughout the week and weekend.”

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During routine boat safety checks, there are a few key items that authorities look for.

Each boat is required to have life jackets, a functional fire extinguisher, boater registration, and a throwable of some kind, he said.

“When we stop a boat it may be for an actual violation or just for a safety check,” Purvis said. It is important to be prepared for anything while on the water.”

Erlanger Trauma Services’ Regena Young is focused on injury prevention.

[Boating accidents] are often related to propeller incidents or our ER often sees drowning or near drowning victims,” Young said. “Usually what trauma sees are those that have had boat crashes at high speeds, not just here in Hamilton County but throughout our 63 county region.”

According to the United States Coast Guard, Tennessee was ranked 10th in the nation for boating accidents in 2016 with 116 incidents.

That same year, drowning was reported as the cause of death in 80 percent of all boating fatalities. Of those who died, 83 percent were not wearing life jackets.

The majority of boating accidents are caused by human error or poor boating safety knowledge and not by the boat or environmental factors, also according to the Coast Guard. 

Young advised citizens to be aware of their surroundings and said that other protective measures, such as having a life vest and being educated about boating safety, are important.

It’s important to avoid drinking and driving, she said.

“We don’t want our boaters to be boating under the influence,” Young said. “Make sure you’re aware of the weather and where you can reach safety, and be aware of carbon monoxide especially if you have a closed cabin.”

The lakes and rivers are not the only places where it is important to maintain water safety.

“Pools during the summer are a great pass time and a great way to spend time with family, but we also want to make sure that safety is observed when you’re out there,” Young said.

All pools should have a fence and locked gate when not in use to keep children from tumbling in and getting in the water, she said.

It is important to make sure that all parents are aware of where their children are at all times, and that they can swim. If they can’t swim it is important to ensure that they have on the appropriate life vest.

According to the United States Coast Guard and the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, additional safe boating tips include:

  • Pay attention to the weather and know how it can affect you and your boating operations
  • Reduce speeds in harbors and confined areas
  • Avoid speeding, watch your wake and be aware of the damage that can come from it, in rough water
  • Stay low in the boat and cross waves at a slight angle, and keep red buoys on your right when traveling upstream.
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