With Memorial Day Weekend coming up, a lot of folks will be out on area lakes driving boats. Many of them should not be. Way too many folks behind the wheel of a boat have no idea what they are doing and often cause accidents.
“Keep right” is the most important rule for any boat operator. You are supposed to stay to the right side of the channel and you should stay to the right when meeting a boat head-on. This is a simple rule, and it is the same as when driving a car, but many people get confused.
The steering wheel of most boats is on the right side, opposite of car steering wheels. I think this is what confuses people, they try to meet oncoming traffic on the side they are sitting on, not keeping right as required.
Skidoos or Personal Water Craft (PWC) are a whole nother problem. These small, fast boats are often driven by young kids that have no idea they are endangering themselves and others by the way they are driving. Jumping wakes may be fun, but the fun ends when you jump into the path of another boat.
Last year there were 329,569 boats in Georgia and 165 accidents were recorded. Out of that number, there were 37,649 PWCs and they accounted for 47 of the accidents. That means PWCs are 11 percent of the boats but they are involved in 29 percent of the accidents.
Drivers of bass boats are often just as bad. Many bass boats will run faster then 70 mph and the drivers often take short cuts by running the left side of bends and turns. This means they may meet a boat driver doing the right thing, keeping right, head on. If it is another bass boat and both are running 70 mph plus, there is not much time to avoid an accident.
Drinking while driving a boat can get you in trouble in a hurry. Last year there were 339 arrest for Boating Under the Influence (BUI) and many of them paid a hefty fine. Beer and boating seem to go together, but it can get real expensive if you are driving the boat.
As might be expected due to heavy boat traffic, Lanier lead the lakes with 51 accidents, more than twice as many as Allatoona in second place. Jackson had 5 accidents, down the list a good ways. Its small size concentrates boats, though. That can make accidents more likely.
The most important thing to do when driving a boat is to think. Realize what you are doing and plan ahead. Know the rules and obey them. Watch out for other people and be careful, and have a safe holiday weekend.