Avoid making safety mistakes out on the lake this weekend

Avoid making safety mistakes out on the lake this weekend

ABINGDON, Va. - Boaters packed Holston Lake on July 4th to enjoy the weather. We rode along with the Virginia Conservation Police as they patrolled the water to keep it safe.

"We're primarily focusing on boaters operating under the influence of alcohol," said Officer James Hale.

Hale told us it's just as dangerous as drinking and driving, and can cost as much.

"If you're arrested for operating under the influence, it mirrors Virginia DUI laws closely," said Hale. "It can be up to a $2,500 fine and up to 12 months in jail."

It's not the only offense they're watching out for.

We came across a group of boaters as they sped through a low-speed zone. Hale explained to the boaters that when they're traveling through a "no wake" zone, they need to drop their boat in gear and let it idle until they're through the area.

The stop also gave the officers the chance to make sure the boaters had a proper license and registration, and had completed a safety class. Anyone under 45 years old now has to attend one of those classes to be in the water.

"It can be a chargeable violation if we stop a boat for something and they don't have the boating safety class," Hale said.

As the patrol continued, we found out there are also some basic items you need to keep in your boat.

Each boat must contain a life jacket that's the right size and fit for everyone on board, a Type IV throwable ring buoy or seat cushion, and a fire extinguisher.

We looked up the Department of Inland Game and Fisheries' most recent boat incident reports in Virginia and found out that in 2012 there were 14 fatalities on lakes in the Commonwealth.

About 86 percent of those were due to boaters not wearing life jackets while seven percent were alcohol related.

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