BILOXI, Miss. (WLOX) - There’s nothing like an enjoyable afternoon boating in South Mississippi, but anyone is just one mistake away from disaster, especially as water traffic gets heavier heading into the Memorial Day weekend.
“There’s going to be a lot of boats in the water,” said Capt. Patrick Levine with the Department of Marine Resources Marine Patrol. “Slow down when you’re in that congested traffic, be courteous and look out for those around you.”
That's why Levine wants to get the word out hard and often during National Boat Safety Week that bad boating has bad consequences.
No. 1: Don’t drink and operate a boat. It’s the cause of 19 percent of boating accidents.
“It’s not just illegal,” Levine said, “but boating under the influence, it kills.”
No. 2: Use life jackets. In almost 85 percent of boating accidents when the cause of death was drowning, the operator wasn’t wearing one.
“I know it may be uncomfortable, but if you ever need it, it can save your life,” Levine said.
No. 3: Get educated. In 81 percent of boating accidents, the boat operator had no form of safety training.
“Make sure that you’re not only familiar with the laws but also with the vessel itself," Levine said.
Bobby Williams has seen a lot in the 37 years as a charter boat captain, and some of it not good.
“Mostly what I’ve seen is a lot of people when they are under the influence,” he said. “Nobody ought to be under the influence when operating a vessel at all.”
He said danger is all around you in the water.
“We’ve all had close calls out here in the water,” he said. “You just have to use your best judgment.”
Levine said one accident he worked made him even more determined to keep people safe.
“I remember arriving on scene, and the only person that we were able to talk to was one of the kids on board the vessel. To see this kid crying and broken and there were some individuals that died in that particular case, it really hit home for me to say, ‘You know what? Don’t operate that vessel under the influence of alcohol. Know the vessel, know the aids to navigation and be safe while you’re out there.’“
A couple of current safety laws to keep in mind:
- Anyone born on or after June 30, 1980, is required to take a boaters’ education course certified through Mississippi Wildlife Fisheries and Parks.
- Anyone 12 and younger has to have a certified life jacket on, and everyone has to have one that accessible.