Department of Fish and Wildlife
Kentucky Afield Outdoors: Keep safety in mind this boating season

Press Release Date:  Thursday, May 21, 2015  
Contact Information:  Kevin Kelly 1-800-858-1549, ext. 4414  

FRANKFORT, Ky. – Memorial Day weekend serves as the unofficial start to summer and draws boaters to Kentucky’s lakes and rivers in droves.

“There’s nothing better than a weekend or a day on the water,” said Zac Campbell, boating education coordinator for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. “Kentucky offers so many incredible lakes and rivers that boaters can enjoy. It’s a great way to spend quality time with family and friends.”

There were more than 170,000 motorized boats registered last year in Kentucky.  A safe experience on the water should be a top priority because the boating season means more boat traffic and less room for error.

U.S. Coast Guard statistics from 2014 show May as the second deadliest month behind July for boating-related deaths in the United States.

Operator inattention, improper lookout, operator inexperience, excessive speed and alcohol use were the top contributing factors among the 4,064 accidents that involved 610 deaths in the U.S. as counted by the Coast Guard last year.

An overwhelming percentage of the people who were involved in boating accidents and drowned last year were not wearing a life jacket at the time, according to Coast Guard data. Federal and state law requires a Type I-III personal flotation device for each person onboard a vessel. Children under the age of 12 must wear a life jacket while in the open part of a boat that is underway.

“Be an alert operator and aware of your surroundings,” Campbell said. “You’re responsible for the vessel and everybody on it. Make sure everyone is following the rules and the laws of the water. It’s also your job to make sure you have all the necessary safety equipment and see to it that it’s being used by the people on your boat.

“All of these things will help ensure that you have an enjoyable and safe trip on the water.”

There were nine boating-related deaths on Kentucky waters all of last year, up from five in 2013, according to Coast Guard data. Four people have already lost their lives in boating-related accidents on Kentucky waters this year.

“That’s high considering the boating season has not even begun yet,” said Maj. Shane Carrier, boating law administrator with Kentucky Fish and Wildlife.

Department conservation officers will be out on the water this holiday weekend to help ensure everyone’s safety.

Boaters should consider arranging for a free vessel safety check through the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary at Such checks by certified vessel examiners help ensure your boat complies with all federal and state boating laws. Kentucky Fish and Wildlife conservation officers also will perform safety checks upon request.

Another useful resource is the new “Boat Safe Kentucky” app for smartphones.

“The app is everything you need to know about Kentucky boating, all in one place,” Campbell said.

Available for download on the App Store on iTunes and Google Play, the free app features a “Blood Alcohol Estimator” and allows the user to report a reckless boat operator to Kentucky Fish and Wildlife law enforcement. There’s also a “Find a Marina” feature that allows users to find the nearest marina and offer the ability to text your boating plans to family, friends and other contacts.

Boaters should follow the “Safety Equipment Checklist” prepared by the department’s law enforcement division before taking to the water:

·         Registration numbers and decals properly displayed

·         Registration receipt on board

·         Wearable life jackets for each person on board

·         Throwable flotation device

·         Fire extinguisher

·         Horn or whistle

·         Lights (red, green and 360-degree white lights)

Children ages 12-17 years old who operate a personal watercraft or boat with a 10-horsepower motor or greater must have a safe boating certificate card or certificate showing they’ve completed a National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA)-approved boater education course.  Boater education courses are offered in person around the state at no charge and online for a fee. All in-person courses require online pre-registration. For more information, including course schedules, visit Kentucky Fish and Wildlife’s website at

“It’s not too late to take a boater education class,” Campbell said. “It ensures that you know everything that you need to know to make sure that you, your family and friends are safe on the water.”