Every year, thousands of residents and visitors spend time boating, fishing and swimming in Tennessee’s lakes and rivers. Spending an afternoon on the water can be a fun and relaxing time for you and your family, if you use common sense and sound judgment.
By doing so, everyone will have an enjoyable experience on the water and go home safe at the end of the day.
Unfortunately, accidents do happen. The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency reports 134 boating incidents took place in 2022 with 78 being a collision with another vessel. Forty-two of those incidents involved an injury and 29 resulted in a fatality. The leading cause of accidents was the careless or reckless operation of the vessel.
Matt Cameron, the communications and outreach coordinator for the TWRA, offers some rules and suggestions for folks to follow while spending time on Tennessee’s lakes and rivers.
Before you head out on the lake or the river, Cameron said to make sure your boat or watercraft is in good, working condition, that everyone is wearing a life jacket and to be sure you let someone know where you’re going and when you’ll be home.
“Sometimes when you let things sit all year, you launch them and you’ll have a problem like a leak or engine trouble,” said Cameron. “Make sure your maintenance is caught up and that you have safety equipment on board and in good condition as well.”
Every boat should have fire extinguisher and a U.S. Coast Guard rated life jacket for every passenger. And whether they’re on the boat or in the water, be sure everyone always wears a life jacket.
“If a boat starts sinking or is capsized, you may not have time to put your life jacket on,” Cameron said. “You may find yourself in the water unexpectedly and that’s where wearing the life jacket could make the difference between life and death.”
If your vessel is 16 feet long or longer, you also must have a throwable device, such as a ring buoy or flotation cushion. Other recommended items to have on a boat include a flashlight, first aid kit, flares, a waterproof container for a phone and an air horn or whistle.
“Whistles are cheap and attach to a life jacket or key ring. People are going to hear that further away than if you just yell,” Cameron said.
SAFETY TIP REMINDERS
- Always wear a life jacket when you’re on the water.
- Watch the weather and avoid being out in a storm.
- Have a proper spotter on board, especially when towing someone.
- If you swim from a boat, make sure the boat is anchored first.
- Be mindful of the turning radius of your boat or watercraft.
- Keep a sober operator and never operate a boat while drunk.
Kingsport’s Communications Department is conducting a multi-part series this year on “Living with Nature,” which will highlight outdoor safety and tips on how to protect you and your family from some of the animals found in our region (bears, deer, skunks, raccoons and snakes).
The “Living with Nature” press releases can be found at www.kingsporttn.gov and on the Kingsport Alerts Facebook page.