Safety crucial in water sports
Published 12:00 am Sunday, May 13, 2001
Sunday, May 13, 2001
The Natchez Democrat
The Miss-Lou is blessed with a wide variety of natural and
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man made bodies of water perfect for boating and other outdoor
Spring is a typically the time boaters begin descending on
the local waters. The large numbers make it essential that safety
is on the minds of everyone.
&uot;Water levels are starting to get under 30 feet, which
usually means this is the time of the year when boaters start
heading to the water,&uot; said Eddie Roberts, a local fisherman
and boating enthusiast from Vidalia, La. &uot;I have been watching
the local lakes and rivers for many years, and they have become
more dangerous in recent years.&uot;
According to the Louisiana Department of Hunting, Fishing and
Boating, the actual number of boating fatalities has decreased
over the past 20 years.
In the 1970s an average of more than 70 boating fatalities
were reported per year in Mississippi. Those numbers fell to an
average of 40 per year in the 1990s, but the decrease has more
to do with improvements in personal flotation devices and their
required use than it does with safer waters or safer boaters.
&uot;The arrival of personal water crafts and high-performance
boats is what has made it more dangerous in my opinion,&uot;
Roberts said. &uot;You have more people on the water, and less
of them know the rules of safe boating.&uot;
According to Roberts, perhaps the best way to learn the rules
of safe boating is taking a boater safety education course.
&uot;I know they offer the course at the Natchez State Park,&uot;
Roberts said. &uot;It really is a good course, and most of the
time you can get a big break on your insurance once you complete
Many of the rules taught by the course are simply common sense.
Much like driving an automobile, boaters should stay to the
right when traveling rivers and lakes.
It is also important to keep an eye on what is going on behind
&uot;The worst boating accident I ever saw happened when one
boat stopped, and the boat behind him was not paying attention
and just drove right on top of him,&uot; Roberts said.
Other things to remember include yielding to smaller boats,
because boaters are responsible for the wake they cause.
&uot;If you wake causes damage to a smaller boat, then you
are legally responsible,&uot; Roberts said. &uot;Also remember
that sailboats always have the right of way, as do boats moving
downstream with the flow of the current.&uot;
In many of the local lakes, including Concordia, St. John and
Bruin, all boats within 300 feet of the shore or 200 feet of any
pier must obey a 5 mile per hour speed limit, and if your party
is skiing, there must be at least two people on the boat (driver
and observer) at all times.