KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — The state announced last week that the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency is participating in the 2022 National Safe Boating Week, which runs from May 21 through May 27. The annual event promotes safe activity on waterways plus the wearing of life jackets as the summer boating season pushes off.  

National Safe Boating Week is held annually the week before Memorial Day weekend, which is often viewed as the unofficial start to the summer boating season.

In Tennessee, all boats, including canoes and kayaks, must be equipped with one wearable personal flotation device or PFD for each person on board or for each person being towed on water skis, etc. Boats that measure 16 feet in length or more must also be equipped with one Type IV (throwable) PFD per boat in case someone falls overboard.

According to the state, TWRA has reported “a noticeable increase” in traffic on the state’s waterways over the last couple of years. In fact, so far in 2022, the state says there have been eight statewide fatalities – three of which involved paddlecraft.

“We see the bad side of it, we see when the day goes wrong,” Capt. Matt Majors with TWRA said in an educational video shared by the agency on Twitter. “So, the punishments are just like they are on the roadway. A person can be arrested and will be arrested if they’re found to be under the influence of alcohol or drug intoxicant. They can also lose their boat operating privileges. They can also have fines levied against them. But more importantly, if we don’t catch them, prior to a crash, they could change their life or somebody else’s life forever and those are just the kind of things we want to prevent not only through education but enforcement.”

TWRA says alcohol use is the top contributing factor in boating fatalities.

TWRA also shared the following safety tips to keep in mind when recreating on the water:

  • Take a boating safety course. Gain valuable knowledge and on-water experience in a boating safety course with many options for novice to experienced boaters.
  • Check equipment. Schedule a free vessel safety check with local U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary or U.S. Power Squadrons to make sure all essential equipment is present, working and in good condition.
  • Make a float plan. Always let someone on shore know the trip itinerary, including operator and passenger information, boat type and registration, and communication equipment on board.
  • Wear a life jacket. Make sure everyone wears a life jacket – every time. A stowed life jacket is no use in an emergency.
  • Use an engine cut-off device. An engine cut-off device, or engine cut-off switch, is a proven safety device to stop the boat’s engine should the operator unexpectedly fall overboard.
  • Watch the weather. Always check the forecast before departing on the water and frequently during the excursion.
  • Know what’s always going on around you at all times. Nearly a quarter of all reported boating accidents last year were caused by operator inattention or improper lookout.
  • Know where you’re going and travel at safe speeds. Be familiar with the area, local boating speed zones and always travel at a safe speed.
  • Never boat under the influence. A BUI is involved in one-third of all recreational boating fatalities. Always designate a sober skipper.
  • Keep in touch. Have more than one communication device that works when wet. VHF radios, emergency locator beacons, satellite phones, and cell phones can all be important devices in an emergency.

More information on TWRA’s Boating Safety & Regulations can be found on its official web page for the topic.