The Fourth of July is here and with it one of the best times of year: boating season.

Swimming, fishing, fireworks and boating all go hand in hand this holiday weekend. South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks would like to remind everyone to stay safe on the water.

Wear your life jackets and don’t drink and boat. Officers will be out around the holiday to make sure everyone is boating safely. So before you get out on the water remember to check and make sure you have the proper safety equipment for your boat. The required safety equipment will depend on the size and type of boat you have.

If you are unsure what equipment you need you can refer to our boating handbook.

Generally, while maintaining safety out on the water, officers will ask to see one properly fitting lifejacket for each person on board, a throwable flotation device and working fire extinguisher.

Wearing a lifejacket is not required to be on a boat, except for those younger than 7 years old and when the boat is greater than a slow-no-wake speed and those operating or riding a personal watercraft. However, wearing a lifejacket is always a good idea for anyone.

In 2010, there were a reported 4,604 boating accidents nationwide. A total of 672 deaths resulted from those boating accidents. Of those deaths, 504 were due to drowning.

An overwhelming 88% of those that drowned were not wearing a life jacket. Not having the proper safety equipment is one of the most often seen violations on the water and easily prevented just by checking to be sure you have everything you need. You never know when you or someone else will need one these life saving devices, so having them accessible and ready to use is critical.

It’s recommended that anyone who boats or uses a personal watercraft get a copy of the South Dakota regulations found in our boating handbook. Common sense needs to be used when operating any boat, but especially a personal watercraft. South Dakota boating laws also apply to personal watercrafts, but there other requirements and considerations that must be taken when operating them.

For example, operating a PWC greater than a slow-no-wake speed within 150 feet of any dock, swimmer, swimming raft, or non-motorized boat is not allowed, and illegal. Slow-no-wake is the slowest possible speed necessary to maintain steerage, but in no case greater than 5 mph.

Boating under the influence is a serious issue and is the leading contributing factor in fatal boating accidents.

South Dakota law prohibits anyone from boating under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The state blood alcohol content legal limit for operating a vessel under the influence is .08. Please have a designated driver. So please be sober or have a sober operator on your boat.

South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Officers will be out this week and weekend focusing on boating and alcohol violations across the state including McCook, Davison and Hanson Counties.

On the SD Game Fish and Parks website, gfp.sd.gov/safety, at you may also find other boating safety reminders including “Top 10 Things to Remember when Boating in South Dakota.” Have fun this holiday weekend and stay safe on the water and remember to pull your boat plugs when traveling to or from the lake.