Officials urge caution during busy boating weekend

Posted at 9:56 PM, May 25, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-26 06:09:29-04

HERMITAGE, Tenn. (WTVF) — As hundreds of people headed to lakes and rivers across Middle Tennessee to celebrate Memorial Day, officials urged them to be cautious.

Memorial Day weekend is one of the busiest times of years on Tennessee waterways, with many people taking out their boats for the first time. But some boaters said the crowded lakes can cause a recipe for dangerous situations.

"Everybody's on the water today so you just have to pay attention to what you're doing," Alec Willett, who works at the Nautical Boat Club, said.

"Some folks aren't comfortable with the boat or they're not paying attention to where they're going," boater Eric Lee said. "And of course there's people out there that like to drink to much, so it's scary"

It's not just scary, it can be deadly. In 2018, 23 boaters died on Tennessee waterways. That was nearly a 50 percent increase from the 2017 total. The most common cause of death in 2018 was people falling overboard.

Officials and experienced boaters say there are several things you should do before you head onto the water. Boaters should make sure there are enough life jackets for every passenger on board, they should drink plenty of water during the summer, boats should have a throw rope in case somebody falls overboard and should also have a whistle to contact other boats for help. Boaters should not drink while driving a watercraft.