BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - The Mississippi Department of Marine Resources (DMR) urges boaters to take the proper precautions as they celebrate the upcoming three-day Labor Day weekend.
Labor Day weekend marks the unofficial end of summer, and many Coast residents and visitors take advantage of the holiday to go boating.
"We want people to enjoy the water and have fun, but we also want them to be safe," said Keith Davis, who is the DMR Chief of Marine Patrol. "People need to make sure their boat is in proper working order before taking it out on the water, and they need to have the proper safety equipment on board."
If boaters plan to drink on the water, Davis advises them to bring a designated driver as well.
"We will have extra officers on duty this weekend, so if you are going to drink, let someone else drive the boat," Davis said. "You shouldn't get behind the wheel of a car or a boat if you have been drinking."
Davis stressed the importance of boater safety for the holiday, but stresses that it is one of his top priorities for Marine Patrol.
"It is my goal as the new Marine Patrol chief to reduce the number of accidents and fatalities on the water," he said. "We want everyone on the Coast who goes out on the water to be safe."
The MDMR will offer more boater safety courses in three different locations throughout the year to make it more convenient for residents. The law requires that anyone born after June 30, 1980 take a boat-and-water safety course, but MDMR officials encourage everyone to take a refresher if they plan to go boating.
Lt. Patrick Levine is the boat and water safety officer for Marine Patrol. He said classes covers topics including basic navigational aids, safety equipment and information, and legal requirements of boating.
"In order to avoid a collision with other boaters, know and follow the rules of navigation," Levine said. "We want people to keep a sharp lookout and be courteous when they are on the water. Marine Patrol wants to see fewer boat and water accidents, and one of the ways we can have this is through education."
Boat and water safety classes are scheduled once a month in different locations. A complete schedule is available online at http://www.dmr.state.ms.us/.