With the approach of the Fourth of July Holiday, the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Department is joining a national effort to highlight boating safety.
Operation Dry Water will take place June 28-30, and is a national weekend promoting boating safety and responsible use of alcohol while boating.
Approximately 17 percent of all boating fatalities nationwide are alcohol-related. As part of the national event, GFP will be conducting extra boating safety patrols across the state to promote safe and responsible boating practices heading into the Fourth of July holiday.
“Our conservation officers conduct these safety patrols throughout the year,” Brandon Gust, GFP boating safety coordinator, said. “As we move into the peak boating season, we feel we can use our presence to share the message that safety is an essential element of any boating experience.”
Having a safe and sober operator is always a critical part of boating but Gust added there are other items to account for as well.
“Before heading onto the water, check your equipment,” he said. “Fire extinguishers, life jackets, throwable seat cushions and other equipment must be in good working condition. The best way to prevent an unwanted tragedy on the water is to be prepared.”
The majority of boats in South Dakota are required to carry:
One U.S. Coast Guard-approved wearable, properly sized personable flotation device for each person aboardOne U.S. Coast Guard-approved throwable type flotation device (seat cushion or ring buoy) for vessels 16 feet or longer One U.S. Coast Guard-approved fire extinguisher of B-1 type or larger for vessels with enclosed gas compartments
Gust noted that state regulations require all children under age seven to wear an approved personal flotation device anytime a boat is moving at greater than no-wake speed. He recommends taking the next step and keeping a personal flotation device on all occupants in the boat at all times.
If boaters are uncertain what safety equipment they are required to have onboard, Gust suggests that they pick up a copy of the South Dakota Boating Handbook at the nearest GFP Office, state park, GFP-license outlet or by going online at http://gfp.sd.gov/fishing-boating/boating/.
“Boating is all about having fun. Our boating safety patrols have a secondary role of law enforcement,” Gust said. “Our primary goal is to share the message with the boating public that safety is the most important factor to a fun outing. We want everyone to have an enjoyable boating season.”
Logo courtesy South Dakota Game, Fish, and Parks