“I can’t tell how close he is, but he is close,” Young says, turning the DNR boat around near Bethany Bridge to stop the operator of a personal watercraft who had been jumping the wake of a boat and zig-zagging behind the vessel.
The 25-year-old operator of the craft was issued a citation, and Young and Hardy are off again, closing down the second day of Operation Dry Water, a nationwide effort to reduce accidents and fatalities related to boating under the influence.
“There’s a lot of things [rangers see often],” Young said. “That’s a hard question to answer because we see so many different violations. The 100-foot law is one we see a lot. At nighttime, operating a vessel without lights, the bow lights, stern lights being out, we get a lot of that. Obviously, BUIs are one of our major concerns.”
In a two-hour span Saturday night, the pair stop three PWC, two boats for registration concerns and two more for lighting concerns, issuing two citations.
Launched by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators in 2009, the three-day Operation Dry Water also works to bring awareness and education to recreational boaters, a problem Young says ranks at the top of the list.
To curb the problem, Georgia on July 1, 2014, will begin requiring boater education courses for anyone born after Jan. 1, 1998.
“That’s a wonderful thing. Just general lack of education and not knowing what the laws are [huge issues],” Young said. “Out here on the water, there’s not a yellow line or white line to kind of show you where to go, so getting that education and actually seeing it before you get out here will hopefully reduce the amount of accidents.”
This year, the state also lowered the legal blood alcohol concentration level for boaters from .10 to .08. According to a DNR press release, conservation rangers have made 71 arrests so far this year on state lakes and waterways in Georgia, and a total of 180 in 2012. Local officials reported seven BUI arrests on Allatoona through the end of the week.
“They used to make a lot more BUIs out here on this lake,” Young said. “That’s the good thing — we are starting to see people who are having designated drivers. That’s exactly what we want.”
Although the agency wraps Operation Dry Water today, rangers are gearing up for a longer Fourth of July holiday weekend beginning Wednesday.
Expecting boaters to take to the water to enjoy fireworks displays and recreation, Hardy said safety measures were vital to lake users.
“Three things: ... Be sure your navigational lights work. Because of the fireworks, everybody’s going to be out, mostly after dark,” he said. “... Be sure there is a life jacket for everyone on board. ... Know your capacity level for your vessel. Do not overcrowd your boat. There’s going to be a lot of people wanting to get on the boat to go see the fireworks, but be sure you don’t overload your boat past capacity.”
Information on Operation Dry Water can be found at www.operationdrywater.org. For more on boating in Georgia, visit www.goboatgeorgia.com.