Memorial Day weekend is the traditional beginning of the boating year across theUnited States. Summer weather draws people to the lakes and rivers like a magnet. The law enforcement section of the West Virginia DNR wants to make sure you're having not only an enjoyable weekend but a safe one as well.
Natural Resources Police Officers will have a full compliment of officers on the waters of the state patrolling this weekend. This year one of the things they'll start cracking down on more so than in years past is the requirement for a boating operator’s license for younger operators.
"Now anybody born after December 31, 1986 has to have the boater safety card to operate a boat in West Virginia waters. That's pretty much standardized nationwide now," said Natural Resources Police Officer Tim White. "That's been the law for ten-years now and we've warned people for several years and we decided it's time to start writing citations."
You can check with the DNR to find out when the boater safety courses are taught in your area.
Another law that many may not realize is children under the age of 12 are required to wear a life jacket anytime the boat is underway. That would include children fishing on a bass boat in which the trolling motor is in operation.
"If it's not anchored out, they have to have a life jacket on," White said. "We're stepping up on enforcement on that as well."
There are exceptions to the rule. Children can shed the life jacket if they are in a boat with a cabin and below deck quarters or are in an enclosed area on a pontoon boat.
Alcohol is always an issue with the officers who keep a sharp eye out for open containers. An open beer on board doesn't necessarily mean a ticket, but White says they often remind boaters at least one of those on board must be sober before manning the controls of the vessel.
State law requires each vessel to have various equipment on board, but White says the number one thing they look for in a safety stop is a life jacket to fit ever person on the boat.
"There has to be a serviceable life jacket, size appropriate for every person on the boat along with a type 4 throwable device," he said.
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