By Kevin Boozer
WINNSBORO — Be under control and in control while on the water and always watch out for the other boat driver. That, in essence, is the message the Department of Natural Resources has reminded boaters of as part of National Safe Boating Week.
The Fairfield County Sheriff’s Department, the Fairfield County Rescue Squad and DNR are teaming up in a community education effort in hopes of curbing accidents on area lakes such as Monticello and Wateree.
A part of that education is an instructor-led boating certification course that DNR offers free of charge. The course is similar to driver’s education. Just as their are rules of the road, there are rules of the water to follow. Therefore, it is a good idea, according to DNR, for adults to take the course along with youth.
However, in some cases the courses are required.
If a youth is under age 16 he or she must be boating certified to operate a jet ski or boat by themselves, provided the boat has a motor over 15 horsepower.
DNR Sgt. M Scott Stephens said South Carolina has adopted federal Coast Guard water regulations.
“It used to be people were taught boating safety by a family member or trusted adult. Now, with these courses, if we all take the course, we all are trained the same way,” Stephens said.
That cohesion, it is hoped, will reduce the number of boating accidents and create a better recreational environment for all boaters, fishermen and swimmers.
There is a right of way on the water. One boat must give way to another and people need to know what kind of reaction a situation requires. Knowing water navigational markers and buoys also is a must. There are rules and laws about boat launching, boat fueling, life jackets being on boats and many other requirements.
Stephens said it takes about eight hours to complete the course including a test at the end to earn certification. The course is a combination of classroom and video instruction. It has been offered in Fairfield County before.
The education and safety initiative touched Fairfield County Coroner Barkley Ramsey near to his heart.
“This is a good idea and a good thing because knowledge replaces fear. Without a system in place,” Ramsey continued,
“people don’t know what to do.”
Accidents can, unfortunately, lead to Ramsey and his office investigating drowning calls that might have been prevented had the boaters been more aware of solid safety practices. For more information on boating safety go to http://dnr.sc.gov/education/boated.html.
The next South Carolina Boating Education Class in Winnsboro is June 8 at the Fairfield County Training Center from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. At press time, 34 of the 35 available seats in the course were open for registration.
Contact Kevin Boozer at 635-4016 ext. 14 or firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter at @kevinboozer.