Be safe, have fun

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The unofficial kick off of summer took place this week and Smith Mountain Lake was full with those enjoying all the offerings it has.

    With the summer season upon us, the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF) is reminding all boaters to remember some important safety tips this boating season. 
    One of the best ways for boaters to stay safe is to always wear a life jacket while on the water.  A significant number of boaters who lose their lives by drowning each year would be alive today had they worn their life jackets. The VDGIF wants boaters to “Wear It” - make a commitment to wear their life jackets at all times while on the water.
    Virginia law requires that there must be one wearable (Type I, II, III, or V) U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) approved life jacket of the appropriate size for each person on the boat. In addition, on federal waters children under age 13 on the vessel must be wearing a life jacket unless they are below deck or in an enclosed cabin. Federal waters in Virginia include waters in which the USCG has enforcement jurisdiction includes Smith Mountain Lake, among others, that make up the inland waterways considered federal waters.
    While getting ready for the boating season, boat owners need to make sure they have life jackets in good condition that fit every occupant of the boat, including children. There are numerous life jacket designs that appeal to youngsters, and by getting them involved in the selection they are more likely to wear them without a fuss.  Inflatable life jackets make it easy for adults to “Wear It” while enjoying their time on the water and being a good role model for young people on their boats.
    Before you head out on the water, take a boating safety education course. VDGIF recommends that anyone who operates a boat complete a boating safety education course approved by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA) and accepted by VDGIF. Virginia’s Boating Safety Education Compliance Regulation, that will require Virginia boaters to take a boating safety education course, is being phased in over the next several years.
    At this time, PWC operators age 35 and younger are required to complete a boating safety education course and have proof of that in their possession while operating a PWC, commonly referred to as a “jet ski.”   The third phase-in date is July 1, this year, when PWC (jet ski) operators age 50 and younger and motorboat operators age 20 and younger, will be required to complete a boating safety education course and have proof of that in their possession while operating the vessel.
    If you have previously taken a boating safety education course and have your card, you are in compliance with the new regulation. There is no need to “register” with the Department to show you are in compliance, simply carry your course completion card or certificate on board.
    The optional Lifetime Virginia Boating Safety Education Card is available to those who meet the boating safety education requirement. This durable, ‘drivers-license’ styled card is available for a fee of $10. You can get an application by visiting the Web site: http://www.dgif.virginia.gov/boating/lifetime-boater-card/.
    To learn more about boating laws in Virginia and about boating safety education courses, visit the Department’s Web site at www.dgif.virginia.gov/boating.
    Being safe is the one way to guarantee you’ll have fun!