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

recreational activities.

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.