Law enforcement officers remind boaters to follow regulations on the water

WASHINGTON, N.C. (WNCT) – Boaters should be ready to see increased law enforcement on the water this weekend.

Operation Dry Water, cracking down on boating under the influence, is a nationwide campaign that kicks off Friday and runs through Sunday. WNCT has reported about a bill in the General Assembly which could make boating while impaired a felony. Yet, it’s not the only thing boaters need to know about on the water this summer.

There are three basic categories of regulations.

  • Equipment: North Carolina law requires most boats to have a throw cushion, a life vest for each person on the boat, a fire extinguisher, flares in coastal waters, and a sounding device like a whistle. Kids under 13 must be wearing them while the boat is moving.
  • Navigation rules: who has the right of way in certain situations and obeying no wake zones.
  • Who can operate a boat: in North Carolina, drivers under 26 have to pass a test. There is no required education or test for boaters older than 26.

Wildlife Enforcement Officer Gary Harrison said people don’t take driving a boat as seriously as they take driving a car, “A lot of folks just go to the boat store, they buy a boat, they take it out on the water and they don’t really give it a lot of thought to all the things that could happen to you on the water.”

Many people may not be aware of all these boating laws.

Austin Smithwick with Park Boat Company said that’s why they educate everyone who buys a boat from them, “We take them out on the water, we demonstrate the boat, show them how to do it, what does this mean, what does that mean, how you should come in when you’re coming back to port and when you’re leaving. So we really try to make sure they’ve got the basics understood before they leave our dealership.”

People are allowed to have alcohol on the boat, but the driver must follow the same rules that apply on the road.

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