KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency on Tuesday shared its latest data for boating-related fatalities on Tennessee waterways this year so far.

TWRA spokesman Matt Cameron said as of June 28, there have been 15 deaths regarding recreational boating incidents; of those, 12 people drowned and three died of trauma.

Boating safety is top of mind for the agency as its officers look to the next holiday weekend and plan to increase patrols.

The TWRA does not track swimming or non-boating deaths on Tennessee waterways. The agency employs boating officers who patrol local lakes and rivers.

In fact, they’re running a campaign this summer that involves free Chick-fil-A treats for safe boating operations. Boaters who operate safely on Tennessee waterways could be given free Chick-fil-A by boating officers on patrol, the TWRA shared earlier this month.

In late May, TWRA reported “a noticeable increase” in traffic on the state’s waterways over the last couple of years.

TWRA officers are asking that people operating or riding on boats remember the following:

  • 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.
  • 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.