Memorial Day is Monday, and many people are expected to take to the roads and waterways to enjoy a variety of activities.
This week is National Safe Boating Week, and the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency's Marine Patrol Division is participating in an effort to “enhance and promote public safety ahead of the busy holiday weekend,” according to a release from ALEA.
“With the weather heating up, it’s time for thousands of boaters to hit the waterways and enjoy a variety of outdoor activities,” ALEA said. “Alabamians and first-time boat owners across the state are expected to commence another summer season by launching their boats this Memorial Day weekend on Alabama’s beaches, rivers and lakes.”
According to ALEA, 107 boating-related crashes occurred during the 2020 fiscal year resulting in 14 fatalities across the state. There were 110 boating-related crashes and 29 fatalities the year prior.
“Many of those fatalities could have been prevented by the simple act of wearing a proper personal flotation device,” ALEA Secretary Hal Taylor said. “With your assistance, we can make this extended holiday weekend on the water safer for everyone, but it will require the use of PFDs and courtesy among boaters, along with an understanding of safe boat operation and the dangers of consuming alcohol.”
ALEA highlights the following safety tips to help keep everyone safe this holiday weekend:
Holidays are not the time for novice boaters to learn to operate their crafts. Operator inexperience is one of the leading contributing factors to boating crashes in Alabama. New operators should consider attending an in-person boating-safety class prior to going to the water;
Be mindful of other boaters. Avoid passing too closely to boats in motion, boats at idle and individuals in the water;
Boaters should avoid the use of alcoholic beverages or use the designated operator system. The sun, wind and other weather conditions already produce an effect on boaters known as “boater fatigue,” and the consumption of alcohol only compounds and intensifies the effect;
When towing or pulling individuals on tubes or water skis, avoid spending prolonged periods in small areas. Look for calm, open water where boating traffic is light'
Everyone should wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved PFD (life vest) when under way, particularly at night. Operators are responsible for everyone on board and should ensure all passengers know where PFDs are stored, how to reach them quickly and how to use them properly;
Children younger than age 8 are required to wear PFDs at all times (unless inside a permanently affixed cabin enclosure). They also should wear PFDs that are the appropriate size;
All individuals being pulled by a vessel on water skis, tubes or other aqua-planing devices also are required to wear U.S. Coast Guard-approved PFDs;
Operators must follow the capacity-plate requirements and never overload vessels beyond recommended safe-carrying capacity. These restrictions will include the weight of equipment and all individuals on board;
Under Alabama law, canoes, kayaks and stand-up paddleboards are considered to be vessels and are subject to PFD requirements. There must be one U.S. Coast Guard- approved PFD on board for each occupant; and children younger than age 8 on board these crafts are required to have them on at all times;
Vessels passing head-on must keep to the right. In a narrow channel, vessels will keep to the right of mid-channel;
Vessels passing or approaching another vehicle must be operated in such a manner and at such a rate of speed that will not create a hazardous wash or wake; and
Avoid boating at night unless familiar with the body of water. Then, operate at a reduced, safe speed. Make sure all navigation lights are in proper working order and displayed properly. Have a cellphone and flashlight on hand in case of emergency.
Athens Police Chief Floyd Johnson advises motorists planning to travel this holiday weekend to be mindful of the associated increase in traffic.
“Slow down, be careful, wear seat belts and stay off handheld devices while driving,” he said.
Johnson said Monday he expects Athens Police Department to maintain a normal patrol presence throughout the city during the holiday.
According to ALEA, state troopers 375 traffic crashes and five fatalities during last year's Memorial Day weekend. There were also 10 boat crashes and four fatalities investigated.