Now that summer is here, Lafourche Parish Sheriff Craig Webre is stressing the importance of safety for recreational boaters and those fishing in our local sportsman's paradise.
"Life jackets, or personal flotation devices, are some of the most important items to have on the water where the unexpected can happen quickly" said Sheriff Webre. "Boaters should be prepared by ensuring that there are personal flotation devices for each person on board."
According to the U.S. Coast Guard, 84 percent of those that drowned in fatal boating accidents in 2014 were not wearing a personal flotation device. While personal flotation devices are vital in the event of an accident, refraining from consuming alcohol can help prevent an accident from occurring.
The U.S. Coast Guard lists alcohol consumption as the leading contributing factor in fatal boating accidents where the primary cause was known.
"The laws regarding impaired driving extend to the water," said Sheriff Webre. "Just as an impaired driver can easily lose control behind the wheel of a car, the same can be said for an impaired boat operator. The danger is exponentially higher while boating since you are surrounded by water and it will take longer for emergency services to arrive."
LPSO Water Patrol deputies respond to calls for help, but they also actively patrol the waterways of Lafourche Parish performing safety checks to make sure their next call isn't a response to tragedy. Sheriff Webre reminds the boating public of laws in place aimed at keeping them safe.
Before heading out on the water, always inform a family member or friend of where you plan to travel and when you expect to return. This information is vital if a rescue attempt is needed.
Bring a cell phone with you and be sure it's fully charged before leaving.
Avoid traveling in unfamiliar locations, but use caution even when traveling in familiar locations. Unknown dangers such as tree stumps, pilings or sunken vessels could be lurking just below the water's surface.
Regardless of where you travel, having a GPS on board is highly recommended. Several areas and waterways have the same or similar names, which may confuse responders. Having GPS coordinates will provide responders with an exact location.
Carry at least one personal flotation device for each person traveling on board. Any passengers ages 16 and younger of a boat less than 26 feet in length must be wearing the device at all times while the boat is in motion.
Anyone on board a motorboat propelled with a hand tiller outboard motor must wear a personal flotation device if their vessel is under 16 feet in length.
Anyone operating a personal watercraft, such as a jet ski, must wear the device at all times. It is illegal for anyone under the age of 16 years to operate a personal watercraft.
Any watercraft over 16 feet in length must have a whistle, horn or other sound-producing device on board.
Every motorboat must have appropriate lighting, and while not every boat is required to have fire extinguishers on board, we recommend at least one.
Inspect all safety equipment to ensure functionality, and check expiration dates.
For more information on boating safety regulations, contact Sergeant Jeff Prevost with the LPSO Water Patrol at (985) 632-5844. Residents can also log on to the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries website at http://www.wlf.louisiana.gov/boating and the U.S. Coast Guard also has an extensive list of boating safety tips online at www.uscgboating.org.
Posted on Fri, June 26, 2015
by The Lafourche Gazette