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September 1, 2003 DNR News (803) 734-3950


Boating safety enforcement patrols from the S.C. Department of Natural Resources will be out in full force this long Labor Day 2003 holiday weekend.

The Labor Day holiday weekend is considered the last blast of summer and one of the busiest weekends of the year on state waters. Boaters need to be aware that as of 12 noon on Aug. 19, 2003 the maximum allowable blood alcohol count for watercraft operators was lowered from .10 to .08. This new level will be enforced on all the waters of South Carolina, and violators will be charged for boating under the influence under Sec. 50-21-114 of the S.C. Code of Laws.

"We'll be on the water this week and boating safety laws will be strictly enforced," according to Col. J. Alvin Wright, deputy director of the S.C. Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Law Enforcement Division. "We urge all boaters and water sports enthusiasts to be safety conscious over the Labor Day holiday weekend, use lifesaving equipment, don't drink alcohol while operating a boat, obey the law and stay aware at all times of others in and around the water. Remember to wear your lifejacket while boating and enjoying water sports. Life jackets save lives."

Already this year, 24 people have died in 100 reported boating accidents in South Carolina, and several swimming fatalities have been reported to DNR. In all of last year (2002), 14 people died in 130 boating accidents on state waters.

Obeying boating laws and rules should keep most boaters safe and out of trouble:

State law requires boating safety training for anyone younger than 16 who wants to operate a boat or personal watercraft with an engine 15-horsepower or greater without being accompanied by an adult. For questions concerning this requirement or boater education courses contact, DNR's Boating Education offices at 1-800-277-4301, (803) 734-3995 in Columbia or (843) 953-9302 in Charleston.

Any person younger than 12 in a boat less than 16 feet long, must wear a Coast Guard-approved personal flotation device. Anyone on a personal watercraft, including Jet Skis, Sea-Doos, WaveRunners and others, must wear a Coast Guard-approved flotation device; they cannot be operated after sunset or before sunrise; and they must be equipped with self-circling or lanyard-type engine cutoffs. No vessel may operate in excess of idle speed within 50 feet of an anchored vessel, dock, pier or person in the water, or within 100 yards of the Atlantic Ocean coastline. No one may jump the wake of another vessel within 200 feet of the vessel creating the wake.

When towing a water skier or person on a floating device, a boat must have an observer onboard or the vessel must be equipped with wide-angled mirrors. A sound-producing device, such as a horn or whistle, is required on all boats. Fire extinguishers are required on most boats.

It is against the law, and extremely dangerous, to operate a boat while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. In South Carolina, individuals involved in an accident that causes a death or serious injury face an implied consent alcohol test and serious penalties with a maximum of 10 years imprisonment and $25,000 fine. When a operator of a water device's Blood Alcohol Count (BAC) is eight one-hundredths of one percent (.08) or more by weight of alcohol in the person's blood, this fact creates an inference that the person was under the influence of alcohol. On the water, the effects of alcohol or drugs are magnified by the elements of sun, wind and wave action. Alcohol also impairs coordination of arm and leg movements, slows response to emergency situations and makes it difficult for boat operators to scan the horizon. Having a designated operator when boating will save lives and prevent accidents.

Boat operators are also reminded that wearable personal floatation devices (PFDs or life jackets) are required for each person onboard. On boats 16 feet and longer throwable devices, such as flotation cushions, are required in addition to wearable devices. Life jackets must properly fit each individual, whether child or adult, and be serviceable without tears, holes or other damage or wear that would decrease the effectiveness of the device. More than 90 percent of all boating fatalities could be prevented with the proper use of life jackets.

Boating accidents resulting in the loss of life, loss of consciousness, personal injury requiring medical treatment or property damage in excess of $500 must be reported to the Department of Natural Resources. Failure to report an accident can result in a maximum fine of $100 for each violation.

Report boating accidents or emergencies to the DNR toll-free, 24-hour hotline at 1-800-922-5431. This number can also be used to report boating violations such as reckless operation or an intoxicated boat operator.

For a copy of South Carolina's Boating Regulations, to find out about local boating safety courses or to obtain a free float plan form contact the DNR Boating Safety Office at 1-800-277-4301; (843) 953-9302 in Charleston or (803) 734-3995 in Columbia, or visit the DNR Web site at .

-Written by G. Michael Willis -




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