Boating Law Enforcement Stepped Up Memorial Day Weekend

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Frankfort, Ky. – Boaters will be out in droves this Memorial Day Weekend, shaking off winter’s cold as they enjoy warm weather and the start of Kentucky’s boating season. Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources conservation officers will also be on the water to help keep the weekend safe for all.

“We’re going to have every available officer on the water this weekend, to watch for violations and make sure everybody stays safe,” said Lt. Mike Fields, boating law administrator for Kentucky Fish and Wildlife. “The officers will be looking for moving violations, rules of the road violations and intoxicated boat operators.”

Moving violations include sitting on a boat’s gunwales, or sides, or on the back of a boat while the boat is underway. All passengers must sit inside the boat when under power. About half of boating related fatalities result from falls overboard.

Rules of the road violations include reckless operation such as cutting between boats or cutting too close to boats in congested areas. Reckless operation can lead to collisions with other boats – another cause of boating fatalities.

One of the most dangerous mistakes boaters can make is boating while under the influence. “Alcohol and boating do not mix,” said Fields. “Nationally, about one-quarter of all boat fatalities involve alcohol. Here in Kentucky, our numbers are as high as one in two.”

Kentucky Fish and Wildlife officers will team up with Kentucky State Police again this year for the Keep It a Safe Summer campaign, which emphasizes the connection between intoxicated boaters and intoxicated drivers.

Officers will also check boaters to make sure they have all required safety equipment on board. Kentucky law requires boaters to have enough personal flotation devices, or life jackets, for everyone on board the boat. Kids under the age of 12 must wear their life jackets while in the open part of a boat that is underway. Though this is both a state and federal law, conservation officers have seen an increase in citations for kids not wearing their life jackets.

There’s good reason for everyone to wear a life jacket. Of the 13 boating fatalities in Kentucky last year, only three involved someone who was wearing one. “Your chances of survival go up if you have that life jacket on at the time of an accident,” said Fields. “Make sure you have a life jacket for everyone on board, make sure everyone knows where it is, and make sure it fits.”

Life jackets have come a long way from the hot, restrictive vests our parents wore. Today’s models are lighter and more comfortable than ever. Inflatable vests are some of the least cumbersome available.

“With Father’s Day coming up, they’re a great idea for the sportsman,” said Fields. “They’re a little expensive, but they may save somebody’s life.”

State law also requires boats with flammable liquids on board to have a working fire extinguisher. Boaters should make sure their fire extinguisher is charged and easily accessible.

Kentucky has plenty of opportunity to enjoy boating this summer. To find a place to boat, go online to Kentucky Fish and Wildlife’s website at

For complete boating regulations, pick up a copy of the 2008 Kentucky Fishing & Boating Guide, available wherever hunting and fishing licenses are sold.