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DNR officials expect busy weekend on waterways

Staff Photo: John Bohn Boaters operate on Sunset Cove at Lake Lanier Islands Resort on Saturday, the first day of the three-day Memorial Day weekend. A high turnout was reported at the Sunset Cove area of Lake Lanier.

Staff Photo: John Bohn Boaters operate on Sunset Cove at Lake Lanier Islands Resort on Saturday, the first day of the three-day Memorial Day weekend. A high turnout was reported at the Sunset Cove area of Lake Lanier.

This weekend's weather forecast is made for a postcard, just in time for the unofficial start of boating season.

That combination means busy waterways around the state, and state Department of Natural Resources, Corps of Engineers and other agencies are preparing for an influx of boaters. A DNR safe and sober driving and boating coalition is reminding people to refrain from or limit drinking alcohol while operating boats.

The DNR has 180 rangers working statewide this weekend, and will also have help from state and local agencies, spokeswoman Melissa Cummings said.

To emphasize safe driving and boating, TEAM Georgia, the coalition, will reward those who register at www.teamgeorgia.net as a sober operator with a chance to win prizes.

This weekend also may be the first time boaters notice the boating under the influence law change from .10 to .08 that went into affect last week.

"Alcohol, mixed with boating activities, can create dangerous conditions that can lead not only to an arrest, but also to tragedy, so we want to emphasize responsibility and safety, especially during the increased traffic expected on holiday weekends," said Lt. Col. Jeff Weaver, assistant chief of the DNR Law Enforcement Division.

The National Weather Service forecast said temperatures will be in the high 70s and low- to mid-80s with mostly sunny skies and only a 10 percent chance of rain on Sunday.

Statewide last year there were 118 boating accidents, 12 boating-related fatalities and 180 boating under the influence arrests.

DNR officials also stressed the "100-foot boating law," which includes all boats and requires operators to slow to idle speed when they are within 100 feet of docks, piers, bridges, shorelines or people in the water. The law also makes it illegal to follow closely behind another vessel, jumpe the wake of another vessel, or change or reverse their course of direction in order to ride or jump in the wake of another vessel.

"It is extremely important for boat operators to take responsibility for educating themselves on boating safety and boating laws," Weaver said. "Making an effort to learn boating laws can potentially save a life."