State encourages safe boating |

State encourages safe boating

by Edwin Lyngar

The Nevada Department of Wildlife kicked off its summer boating safety program by encouraging people to wear life jackets and increasing the presence of law enforcement officers on the water for the upcoming boating season.

National Safe Boating Week, May 19-25, is the traditional start of boating season in Nevada. It is a week that culminates with one of the busiest boating weekends of the year, Memorial Day Weekend. During this week and well into the summer, NDOW steps up education programs and focuses many Nevada game wardens on boating safety and enforcement.

“We send our officers out in force on the water this time of year,” said Rob Buonamici, the chief of law enforcement at NDOW. “We think education is the key to making boaters safer and changing dangerous behaviors such as drinking and boating.”

According to national statistics, drinking and boating accounts for up to half of all serious boat accidents. Two out of the three fatal accidents in Nevada last year were attributed to alcohol use, according to Fred Messmann, Nevada’s boating law administrator.

Many boaters don’t realize that the effects of alcohol can be far more pronounced while driving a boat. The extra impacts of the boat and engine noise, sun, glare, vibration, wave action, temperature, and wind is sometimes called the amplifying effect. Alcohol, a depressant, slows sensory abilities. Boating skills decline as alcohol takes effect, reducing depth perception, peripheral, color, and night vision, reaction time, balance, coordination and concentration. Drinking makes the difficult task of driving a boat next to impossible.

“Although the National Safe Boating week focuses on life jackets, we always try to remind boaters not to drink while they boat as the season kicks off,” said Messmann. “If we could get people to stop drinking when they operate a boat, I know that we would cut our accidents in half in Nevada.”

In preparation for the 2007 boating season, organizations across the country will mark National Safe Boating Week with safety campaigns stressing life jackets, sober boating and boating education.

Alongside this national campaign, NDOW reminds Nevada boaters of the four-year-old state law that requires some boaters to take a boating education course before hitting the water. According to the law, boaters born on or after January 1, 1983, must take a boating education course to operate a motorboat of 15 horsepower or more on any Nevada interstate water, such as Lake Mead, Lake Mohave, Topaz Lake, Lake Tahoe and the Colorado River south of Davis Dam. Educating boaters on safe boating practices and wearing life jackets can go a long way to reducing, and hopefully someday eliminating, boating fatalities on Nevada’s waters.

“We have seen a slight reduction in fatal boating accidents over the past few years,” said Messmann. “We don’t know how much of that we can credit to Nevada’s boating education law, but we know for a fact that an educated boater is a safer boater.”

NDOW has crafted many options for boaters wishing to take the class. They can take a course from the Coast Guard Auxiliary or U.S. Power Squadrons, take a correspondence course free from NDOW or even take an Internet course offered at Boaters who wish to learn more about any of NDOW’s safe boating programs can visit the Web site or call (775)688-1500.

The Nevada Department of Wildlife is the state agency responsible for the restoration, protection and management of fish and wildlife resources, and the promotion of boating safety on Nevada’s waters.

Wildlife offices are located in Las Vegas, Henderson, Winnemucca, Fallon, Elko and Reno. For more information, contact the agency Web site at

Learn more about the National Safe Boating Week at