DNR encourages boater safety ahead of Memorial Day weekend

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – Memorial Day weekend is the kickoff to the 2015 summer boating season.

The Department of Natural Resources and local police departments are already preparing to beef up their presence on the water this weekend. On Geist, Morse and Eagle Creek reservoirs, more officers will be out on the water assuring everything goes smoothly.

Officers will be watching to make sure boaters are following basic safety measures this weekend and all throughout the summer. DNR officers will check to see if boaters are wearing life jackets, driving responsibly and staying sober.

The most common violation DNR expects to see is going too fast in idle zones, especially around the marina area where many boats are anchored. DNR says making waves could cause someone to lose their balance on their boat, or even knock something over that could start a fire. In addition, going too fast in crowded areas could cause an wreck.

“Some of these accidents can be avoided if we just pay attention to our surroundings. Take our time, if we’re not comfortable with the way we’re operating our boats, we need to become comfortable and slow it down a little bit,” said Officer Jet Quillen with the Department of Natural Resources.

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All you need is a drivers license to operate a boat, but mistakes on the water could cause you to lose your license on the road. Boating-while-intoxicated is one offense that can get your drivers license taken away.

Because Memorial Day weekend is so busy, more police officers than usual will be out on the water looking for intoxicated boaters.

It could also storm or rain this weekend, so DNR is advising people to start thinking about a backup plan now.

“You need to start looking at the weather now and planning your trip accordingly, if it’s going to rain, you need to make that decision if you’re going to go out and chance it or not. Any time there’s thunder or lightning we advise for people not to be on the water,” said Quillen.

Quillen went on to say that decision is up to the boater. While DNR highly recommends you get to dry land anytime there is lightning, thunder or just rain that’s too heavy, it’s up to the boater to decide when to leave.

Even if you’re obeying all the laws out on the water, officers say it’s important to keep an eye on other boaters. They say being aware of the people around you, is just as important as following all the rules yourself.

Boaters and DNR officers said they are now a little more on edge, after a crash on Geist Reservoir last weekend that left a woman in critical condition. Officers want to reiterate the importance of paying attention to boaters around you, and being aware of your surroundings. That crash is still being investigated, and officers expect to deliver their investigation to the prosecutor’s office soon, to see if any charges will be filed.