Boating season brings increased need for safety

Steve Lemens of Glencove Marina said conducting a thorough safety inspection of your boat before using it greatly reduces the risk of an accident.

With the unofficial start to boating season at Lake of the Ozarks just one week away, marinas in the area are urging boaters to stay safe.

Larry McMullin of Iguana Watersports said mid-Missourians are fortunate to have the lake at their disposal.

"There are so many different aspects of it," McMullin said. "We're privileged here. We have the wave board boats, ski boats, pontoon boats, and we've got big boots. We get to enjoy all of them, so it just kind of depends on what mood you're in and who's with you."

With the majority of boaters set to get their boats in the water, McMullin said safety should be their top priority.

According to Missouri State Highway Patrol, approximately 500 people drown each year nationwide from recreational boating crashes. Of those, 88 percent were not wearing a life jacket.

Missouri experienced 97 boating crashes in 2013, according to Highway Patrol. In those c rashes, 87 people were injured and 17 people were killed.

Steve Lemens of Glen Cove Marina said one way to avoid a potentially deadly crash is for boaters to conduct a thorough safety inspection of their boats before getting them in the water.

"If you've got an on board fire system, make sure it's charged and ready to go," Lemens said. "Make sure everybody knows where the fire extinguishers are on the boat."

"I like to make sure that people have at least two drivers. You never know, if somebody gets hurt, someone else needs to be able to drive the boat."

Both men said one of their biggest concerns for boating season is speeding and drunk boating, a recipe for accidents or worse. Missouri law prohibits boating while intoxicated (BWI), which carries criminal penalties and is currently a Class B Misdemeanor.

"If you know you're going to be impaired, make sure you designate someone, make sure to have a designated driver," McMullin said.

Using a life jacket and taking other common-sense safety precauctions reduces the risk that someone could be injured or killed in a boating accident.