Boating Safety Encouraged By Local Police Following Recent Tragedies

July 2015 News Web Exclusive

According to the Charlotte Observer, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg police force sent a message yesterday that is good for all boaters everywhere to keep in mind—get at least a little safety training before driving a boat, and never drink while piloting a vessel. Everyone from houseboaters to runabout drivers to personal watercraft pilots should pay close attention to what they advised. 

Their announcement comes on the tail of three unfortunate fatalities on local lakes during the holiday weekend. Seventeen-year-old Sheyenne Marshall of Concord was knee-boarding on Lake Norman on the Fourth of July when a pontoon boat operated by Keith Owen Cerven of Mooresville struck her. Unfortunately, Cerven was found to be intoxicated. Only a few hours later on Mountain Island Lake, a boat hit rocks, killing Daniel Schmidt, 60, of Charlotte and Jennifer Schmidt, 29, at the scene. The two other people on the boat were hospitalized.

As the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Deputy Police Chief Jeff Estes pointed out at a news conference Tuesday morning, it’s only a matter of time before safety training is mandated by law, irrelevant of a boat pilot’s age.

“For us, though, time is of the essence,” Estes explained. “Any time we’re asked to move forward legislation, to require some level of training, whatever that might be, we support that in the name of safety.”

In North Carolina alone, the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission reports that there have been 21 boating-related deaths in the state, while the U.S. Coast Guard reports that North Carolina had 26 deaths last year, coming in at fourth-highest nationally from the states who reported figures to them. One of 26 states that require boating courses only for people in a certain age range, North Carolina didn’t require training until 2009.

Estes pointed out that they’re “well above” the state’s fatality rate from 2014 and called the holiday weekend’s deaths “a tragedy, senseless and 100 percent preventable.”

While they don’t want to downplay the fun-filled lifestyle that all of us boaters enjoy on the water, the CMPD fully intended to raise awareness of the possible dangers when people hit the water unprepared.

“Boating can be fun, but it also can be a dangerous endeavor, not one you mix alcohol, inattention and inexperience with,” Estes explained.

CMPD lake enforcement officer L.D. Turner likewise urged everyone who hits the water to ensure that all navigational lights are working properly on their vessels, as well as being aware of where they are and how to get back.

He stated, “One problem we see is that people at night use their docking lights for what we call headlights, and they are only visible, at the most, 10 feet in front of your boat.”

The police also pointed out a very important rule of thumb—to remember that even below the .08 legal BAC (blood alchohol content), you can still be driving impaired on the water. Why is that? Because the heat and wave motion can actually worsen the effects of whatever alcohol is consumed by the pilot (or anyone else on board, for that matter).

Following safety guidelines like the CMPD, the Charlotte Observer, and others have reminded boaters of will only ensure that you and your family are doing everything you can to have a fun and enjoyable time on the water. If you keep safety tips like these in mind, rest assured you have done all you can to fully enjoy everything the boating lifestyle offers. 

Photo credited to The Charlotte Observer

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