KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) -- The Memorial Day holiday weekend marks the unofficial start to the summer boating season and is one of the year's busiest boating weekend, according to the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency.
TWRA officials emphasized the importance of wearing a life jacket and boating in a safe and responsible manner. In 2019, there were no boating-related fatalities during the Memorial Day holiday weekend for the fifth consecutive year.
In 2019, there were 21 boating under the influence (BUI) arrests made over the holiday weekend. TWRA wildlife officers reported five injury incidents and six property damage incidents.
Along with the use of life jackets, TWRA wants to stress the responsible use of alcohol while boating.
"It is important to consider the effects of drinking and driving whether on water or land," TWRA officials said. "In a boat on the water, the effects of alcohol increase because of external stressors such as engine vibration, wave motion and glare from the sun."
Operating a boat under the influence of alcohol or drugs is illegal in Tennessee.
“Boating incidents are preventable,” said Capt. Matt Majors, statewide boating investigator. “Boating under the influence is irresponsible and illegal. Our wildlife officers will be out day and night on our waterways to ensure the safety of our boating public.”
For many residents, the Memorial Day weekend will be the first time to have the boat on the water this year. TWRA officials say taking a few minutes to check some of the boat components may be the key to having a nice, safe outing. Performing a simple maintenance check before getting on the water may prevent problems. Check hoses to make sure they are in good shape. Make sure the lights work and carry extra fuses and bulbs.
In addition, TWRA urges all boaters to remember the basics:
- Have a wearable life jacket for every person on board
- If your boat is 16 feet or longer, there must be a Type IV throwable device onboard
- Have onboard a working fire extinguisher if you have enclosed fuel compartments or cabins
- Children age 12 and younger must wear a life jacket at all times while the boat is underway – drifting is considered underway
- Any boat operator born after January 1, 1989, must have onboard the TWRA-issued wallet Boating Safety Education Certificate
- Choose a designated boat operator
- Make sure there is a current boat registration
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