Staying safe on Louisiana's waterways

Monday, June 13, 2011 - 5:53pm

Spending time on the waterways seems like a great way to beat the heat this summer, but Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries experts say its best to know the rules of the rivers to stay safe in the sun.

Wildlife and Fisheries Senior Enforcement Agent Scott Bell patrols a 50 mile stretch of the Tickfaw River. He’s been working that particular area for about 10 years. His job is to keep the waterways safe.

“I do what I can, but it still hurts to see a child get hurt, or a drowning, or a bad accident that was caused by a DWI,” Bell explains.

That’s why he checks boats on the river every single day, to make sure they are stocked with everything from life jackets to fire extinguishers. Bell says its important to have those objects on board because anything can happen on the river.

“Anything from having a submerged object to having another boat approach you and not knowing what to do,” he says.

That means being aware. Bell says he has really cracked down on drunk driving. The penalty is the same on the water as it is on the roads.

“We will arrest you. We will take you to jail. You will lose your drivers license and your car insurance will go up from a DWI on the water.”

Bell also stresses the importance of safety in the water. “The river is very unpredictable. It could be waist deep on one side and 30 feet deep on the other side.”

Bell has good advice for boaters, swimmers, and tubers alike.
• All children 17 and under are required to wear a life jacket while the boat is underway.
• The best place for a child on a boat is in the center and down low. Do not let them sit on the bow of the boat and keep them away from the sides when the boat is moving.
• Do not drink and drive a boat!
• Don’t get in the water when the boat’s motor is running.
• Always keep a life jacket, your driver’s license and registration, and a fire extinguisher on board a boat.
• If you’re swimming, stay near your boat. It’s difficult for other boaters to see you on the water.
• Be aware of carbon monoxide coming from your boat. Swimming near that for too long can make you sick.
• If you’re not a strong swimmer, wear a life jacket.
• If you’re tubing, stick with a group.
• Always let someone know where you’re going and who you’ll be with. You don’t want to get stranded somewhere.

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