Whether an upcoming trip prompts families to visit Pickwick Landing state park or Horseshoe Lake in Arkansas, safety is a factor that officials are specifically taking stock of on the water.
Boating safety is being stressed by officials across the Mid-South during “National Safe Boating Week,” which officially began Saturday, May 22.
Matt Majors is a captain at the Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency.
“We’re looking for children not wearing life jackets, reckless or negligent operation, and then people consuming alcohol or drugs while they’re on boats,” Majors said. “Those things are some of the leading contributing factors in the recreational boating incidents that we investigate every year.”
So far, eight people have already died in Tennessee waterways during 2022. New regulations stress safety as anyone caught drinking and boating can now face up to $10,000 in fines as well as possible jail time.
“There’s a lot of environmental stressors that happen on the waterway,” Majors said. “Wind, noise vibration—a lot of things that you wouldn’t get in the car that are happening to a boat operator out here, and then you add a little bit of alcohol or drugs to that, it can intensify that.”
With no speed limits or stop signs on the water, Majors said operators must be fully aware of what’s happening around them to make sure that they’re passengers are safe.
“We see when the day goes wrong,” he said. “The punishments are just like they are on the roadway. A person can be arrested and will be arrested by our officers if they’re found to be under the influence of an alcohol or drug intoxicant. They can also lose their boat operating privileges. They can also have fines levied against them, but more importantly, if we don’t catch them prior to a crash, they could change their life or somebody else’s life forever.”