Virginia safety officials share boating tips ahead of Memorial Day weekend

Published: May. 24, 2023 at 5:44 PM EDT
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SMITH MOUNTAIN LAKE, Va. (WDBJ) - We are in the middle of National Boat Safety week and it’s important to remember how to stay safe on the waterways.

While most of us are looking forward to the three-day weekend and visiting the lake, safety officials are reminding everyone that a safe and fun weekend starts with wearing your life vest.

“The majority of the fatalities in Virginia are drowning-related, so if you’re out on the water or going swimming, that’s why we emphasize wearing your life jacket so much,” Michael Morris, conservation police sergeant with the Department of Wildlife Resources (DWR), said.

If you’re not paying attention, drinking and driving a boat or if you’re not familiar with the rules of water, it can cause an accident and put a dent in your holiday plans.

“We do tend to see more accidents during a holiday weekend, just because there’s more activity,” DWR public information officer Paige Pearson said. “If you’re going to drink, have a designated driver. Go slow, be controlled, know your surroundings and wear a life jacket.”

Boaters can expect to see more officials patrolling the waterways, including Smith Mountain Lake, to keep accidents at bay.

“We’ll be out to make sure there’s not excessive speed in the wake zones,” Morris said. “We’ll be watching for reckless operation, violations which could entail jet skis spraying each other and/or boats operating too fast next to other boats.”

Virginia saw 88 boating accidents in 2022. Officials want to make sure this weekend is a safe start to the summer season.

“Anything you want to do, there’s plenty of opportunity out here in the water,” Pearson said. “We just ask that you wear your life jacket while you’re doing it to be safe.”

For more water safety tips, check out WDBJ7′s previous segments on water safety here.