As the spring and summer boating season gears up, state officials want residents to keep a number of new boating laws in mind.
For example, new state laws taking effect including requiring children 13 years old and under to wear life jackets when riding in an open, moving boat and placing age limits and education requirements on young watercraft operators.
This law was passed this past legislative session in response to the deaths of two boys in a BUI boating accident on Lake Lanier last summer.
Georgia Department of Natural Resources Law Enforcement officer Craig Fulgum was one of the officers who worked that fatal accident last summer on Lanier.
Fulgum said he was forever changed by the deaths of those two young boys.
“It was a tragic year statewide,” Fulgum said. “Lanier had several fatalities involving children. Anytime you have a fatality it’s tragic, but when it’s children, I can tell you that every officer that worked that scene was changed from that accident. You can’t help but walk away from that thinking, ‘how could this have been avoided?’”
The driver of the boat who slammed into the boat the two boys were in was found later to have been boating under the influence.
The new law signed by the Governor recently also lowers the blood alcohol limit for boaters to .08 from .10.
Georgia had been one of eight states with a higher blood-alcohol limit for boating.
As for learning boating safety and boating laws, Fulgum teaches a free boating safety class at the Hartwell Lake Dam office every spring.
He said the new laws and existing laws are covered in that class.
“The course is pretty well rounded,” he said. “It gives a lot of rules and regulations. We try to cover it from the point where an individual has never operated a boat and start from the ground up and go right up into the laws and there’s a lot of laws.”
Fulgum said many people think you can just jump into a boat and start it up, but he said there are a lot of laws for boaters not only in Georgia, but also in South Carolina. The class also covers the boating laws in South Carolina since the Georgia-South Carolina state line runs through the center of Hartwell Lake.
Fulgum held his first class last week, but said another class will be coming up in May.
The class is open to any one in the Northeast Georgia area and to all age boaters.
If you need more information on the boating safety class, you can contact Fulgum at the DNR office in Gainesville at 770-535-5499.