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GFP emphasizes boating safety

With the approach of the Fourth of July Holiday, the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Department is joining a national effort to highlight boating safety.

Operation Dry Water will take place Friday through Sunday, June 27-29, and is a national weekend promoting boating safety and responsible use of alcohol while boating.

Approximately 17 percent of all boating fatalities nationwide are alcohol-related. As part of the national event, GFP will conduct additional boating safety patrols in the Mitchell area to promote safe and responsible boating practices heading into holiday weekend.

"Conservation officers conduct these safety patrols throughout the year," Andy Petersen, Mitchell area conservation officer, said. "As we move into the peak boating season, we feel we can use our presence to share the message that safety is an essential element of any boating experience."

Having a safe and sober operator is always a critical part of boating, but Petersen added there are other items to account for as well.

"Before heading onto the water check your equipment," he said. "The best way to prevent an unwanted tragedy on the water is to be prepared."

The majority of boats in South Dakota are required to carry:

• One U.S. Coast Guard-approved wearable, properly sized personable flotation device for each person aboard;

• One U.S. Coast Guard-approved throwable type flotation device (seat cushion or ring buoy) for vessels 16 feet or longer; and

• One U.S. Coast Guard-approved fire extinguisher of B-1 type or larger for vessels with enclosed gas compartments.

Petersen noted that state regulations require all children under age 7 to wear an approved personal flotation device anytime a boat is moving at greater than no-wake speed unless they are below deck or in an enclosed cabin. He recommends taking the next step and keeping a PFD on all occupants in the boat at all times.

"Boating is all about having fun. Our boating safety patrols have a secondary role of law enforcement," Petersen said. "Our primary goal is to share the message with the boating public that safety is the most important factor to a fun outing. We want everyone to have an enjoyable boating season."

-- Source: S.D. Department of Game Fish and Parks