Arkansans are looking for ways to cool down during the long summer days. Many will head to one of the State’s beautiful lakes or rivers. With more than 200,000 boats registered statewide according to the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, many residents spend a lot of time boating to beat the heat. But boaters need to remember to be cautious on the water. A 14-year-old girl was killed in Arkansas Thursday in a jet ski accident, and a Missouri man was killed on Saturday after lightning struck his boat.
Attorney General Leslie Rutledge issued today’s consumer alert to caution Arkansans about the potential dangers of boating.
“Nearly all boating accidents are preventable,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “In order for summer to be both fun and safe, it is vital that all boaters remain attentive, wear proper personal flotation devices and take precautions to avoid major accidents.”
Last year, 72 boating accidents were reported by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, with operator inattention being the number one cause. Alcohol was the contributing factor in eight of those accidents during 2014.
Attorney General Rutledge released the following tips to boat safely:
- Check local weather conditions before departure. If you notice darkening clouds, volatile or rough winds or sudden drops in temperatures, stay off the water.
- Create and follow a pre-departure checklist to ensure no boating safety rules or precautions have been forgotten or overlooked.
- Have a first aid kit, signaling devices, a boat anchor, marine VHF radio and a cellphone on board in case of emergencies.
- Be alert at all times and stay clear of large vessels that may experience difficulty turning or stopping. Always respect buoys and other navigational aids.
- Designate an assistant skipper in case the primary navigator is injured or incapacitated in any way.
- Inform family or friends of your plans, where you are going and how long you are going to be gone.
- Make sure everyone is assigned a proper-fitting life jacket. Arkansas law requires children 12 and under to wear a life jacket at all times boating or swimming.
- Avoid alcohol while boating.
Attorney General Rutledge also reminds Arkansans that lawmakers recently increased the penalties for boating while intoxicated to match those of driving while intoxicated. It is illegal to operate or physically control a boat if the individual is under the influence of alcohol. This means that a first offense could land intoxicated boaters in jail up to one year, a $1,000 fine and driver’s license suspension for six months.
Meanwhile, state and federal laws prohibit depositing waste of any kind, including trash, oil and other liquid pollutants into bodies of waters. Violators could be charged with a misdemeanor and fined up to $1,000.
More safety tips can be found on websites of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, U.S. Coast Guard or U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. For information on tips to avoid getting scammed, as well as other consumer related issues, call the Arkansas Attorney General’s Office at (800) 482-8982 or visit ArkansasAG.gov or facebook.com/AGLeslieRutledge.