With Memorial Day coming up, summer is finally upon us. For many Arkansans, that means it’s time to head to the water. We know summer is always HOT, but that does not keep us from getting out and enjoying all the waterways the state has to offer. Whether it’s skiing on Lake Ouachita, cruising the Arkansas River, or canoeing the Buffalo River, we all like to head to the water. It’s fun, but there are always dangers as well. Here are a few tips to make sure you stay safe on the waterways this summer:
1. Wear a life jacket! – So many needless injuries and deaths every year could be avoided if everyone wore a life jacket. In Arkansas all watercraft must have a US Coast Guard approved life jacket for everyone on board the boat. This is true for a motorboat, canoe, kayak, or anything on the water.
2. Don’t drink while operating a boat – Just like a car, it is illegal to operate a boat while drinking. Judgement can be impaired and that can lead to disastrous consequences for everyone.
3. Know your boat – It is important to know as much as you can about your boat. That way you know its limits and what to do if there are engine problems.
4. Keep an eye on the weather – Summertime in Arkansas means that weather can change in an instant. Pay attention to the weather before you go out for the day, but also watch for afternoon storms popping up that can become severe. Always remember, if you see lightning to get out of the water immediately.
5. Know the boating “Rules of the Road” – Although there are no real roads, there are still rules every boater should follow. There are passing rules, overtaking rules, distance rules, etc. Every boat operator should know these rules in order for everyone to be safe.
6. Be Educated – In Arkansas everyone born after January 1, 1986 must take a boater education class in order to operate a motor or sailboat. Even if someone was born before the required date it is still a good idea to take the class.
7. HAVE FUN! – Yes it is important to be safe, but don’t fret so much you forget to have fun! A safe trip makes a fun trip for everyone involved.
We are blessed to have so many great outdoor activities to do in Arkansas. Don’t let the fear of something going wrong keep you from enjoying summer, just remember to take a few minutes up front to review any safety precautions. Once those are made go out and enjoy a great Arkansas summer day!