"Rules of the Road" Apply When on the Water
The number of boat and personal watercraft owners continues to increase every year, leading to greater congestion on Georgia’s waterways. Last year, 168 boating accidents resulted in 5 fatalities according to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Wildlife Resources Division (WRD) and a large number of these accidents occurred because the boat operator either was not familiar with, or did not follow, the boating laws that govern lakes and rivers.
“Boat operators do not need a license to operate a boat and people over the age of 16 are not required by law to take a test to operate a vessel, ” says WRD Lt. Col. Terry West, Georgia’s State Boating Law Administrator. “Therefore, it is extremely important for boat operators to take responsibility for educating themselves on boating safety and boating laws. Boat operators can take a boating safety class offered by the Division, order a home study course or take the course over the Internet.”
The ‘100 foot law’ includes all boats, not just personal watercraft, and requires all boat operators to slow to idle speed when they are within 100 feet of docks, piers, bridges, shorelines or people in the water.
“People who operate boats and personal watercraft at dangerously high speeds, and zip into and out of coves and along shorelines where other vessels are anchored or where people are in the water are not only putting themselves and others at risk for serious accidents, but they also are breaking the law,” says Lt. Col. West. “In an effort to reduce the number of accidents this boating season, conservation rangers will be strictly enforcing the ‘100 foot law’ for all vessels.”
The 100-foot law states, “No person shall operate any vessel or tow a person or persons on water skis, an aquaplane, a surfboard, or any similar device on the waters of this state at a speed greater than idle speed within 100 feet of any vessel which is moored, anchored, or adrift outside normal traffic channels, or any wharf, dock, pier, piling, bridge structure or abutment, person in the water, or shoreline adjacent to a full-time or part-time residence, public park, public beach, public swimming area, marina, restaurant, or other public use area.”
This means that it is illegal to jump the wake of another boat within 100 feet and to buzz other boats, vessels can no longer operate around or within 100 feet of another vessel faster than idle speed unless it is overtaking or meeting the other vessel in compliance with the rules of the road for boat operation and makes it illegal for boat operators to follow closely behind another vessel, jump the wake of another vessel, or change or reverse their course of direction in order to ride or jump in the wake of another vessel. -Other rules of the road for boat operation include:
- When meeting another vessel, boat operators should pass on the right side (just like in a car) unless the boats are far enough apart that they are not meeting head on or close to head on.
- On narrow rivers and streams, stay as far right as possible and be careful when rounding bends and curves and overtaking or passing other boats.
- In a crossing situation, the boat on the right should hold its course and the boat on the left should slow down and cross behind the other boat.
- Powerboats always should yield to sailboats.
To take a boating safety course, go to www.goboatgerogia.com, to order the home video course, call (800) 460-9698 or go to www.boat-ed.com.