Boating and Water Safety class keeps residents on right course

Published 12:00 am Sunday, July 1, 2001

The Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks is doing its job to make the area’s waterways safer for boating and personal watercraft enthusiasts.

The department sponsored a Boat and Water Safety Course at Natchez State Park Saturday, with more than 20 people attending.

Unfortunately, according to Mississippi DWFP conservation officer Michael Bell, not enough people are educated regarding boating rules and regulations and safety.

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&uot;They really need to attend, no matter how young or old, the Boating and Water Safety Course to reorient themselves with Mississippi boating (laws),&uot; said Bell, who is one of the course’s instructors.

Boating has grown dramatically in the last 10-15 years. It used to be just fisherman taking to the waters. But more people have found they can have a good family fun on the lakes and rivers.

The increased popularity of personal watercraft has added to the volume of traffic on the waterways.

&uot;There are so many people out there now,&uot; Bell said. &uot;They figure they know everything they need to know about boating and water safety.

&uot;It’s a different world than it was years ago.&uot;

Last year’s boating statistics are startling. More than 151 boating accidents and 28 personal watercraft accidents were reported.

Twenty- three people died due to boating accidents, Bell said, with 18 of those due to drowning. Falls overboard were the main cause of fatalities.

&uot;The fatalities are steadily going up, so there’s a push for this,&uot; Bell noted.

Taking the Boating and Water Safety Course is required by state law if you were born after June 30, 1980. At the class, Bell and an assistant teach people about getting to know your boat, operating your boat safely, what boaters are required to do by law, what to do in an emergency and other things.

&uot;We try to keep it as simple as we possibly can,&uot; Bell said.

Besides safety concerns, Bell said that properly registering a boat is another problem. Boats purchased before 1972 do not have vehicle identification numbers. State law now requires that each boat be identified. Bell said many people aren’t aware of this. If a boat is found not to have a number, it could be confiscated, he said.

&uot;Every day in Adams County I’m going out to houses to register boats,&uot; Bell said.

The DWFP offers the class three times each year. The next – and last – session is scheduled for July 26 and 27 at Natchez State Park from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.