As a long Independence Day weekend quickly approaches, many of us will be heading to lakes and rivers to relax. Unfortunately, these summer holidays usually see an uptick in tragic, avoidable incidents. The Arkansas Game & Commission has a website dedicated to boating safety, which we hope you'll visit. You can also download a free PDF of the Arkansas Boating Handbook. Some of the high points include:
- Boat operators born in 1986 or later must have an AGFC-approved operator's card in their possession. The course and exam cost $24.50 and is available online. There is no minimum age to take the exam.
- Make sure your liability insurance policy is current on your boat (for jet skis and boats 50 hp or more).
- Let a relative know where you're going in case of an emergency.
- Be sure to pack sun block. No one likes looking like a lobster at work after a holiday weekend.
- If you're going to be out at night, make sure all lights on the boat are operational.
- Don't overload your boat — most boats have a yellow and white capacity plate. I once saw a party barge with 20+ people on it plow the front end under the surface of the water. It threw many of the passengers to the floor of the boat. Luckily, no one was injured.
- Wear life jackets, especially when under power. Be prepared to throw a flotation device to anyone falling overboard. Make sure life jackets for kids are weight-appropriate.
- Keep a good lookout, and maintain a safe speed and distance from other boats.
- Don't operate any boat under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Patrol boats can and will pull you over, and patrols increase on holidays.
- Don't litter, and avoid glass containers. There's nothing like a sliced foot to ruin a perfectly good weekend.
Enjoy your holiday weekend, and be safe out there! Peace!