Safety stressed as boaters head to the water

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PARKERSBURG, W.Va.-(WTAP) It might not say so on the calendar, but Memorial Day weekend is considered the official start of summer.

And with summer, comes boating season.

Watercraft regulators remind boaters they, just like people driving on the roads, have to follow much the same rules.

And not following them have much the same consequences.

Those rules include having personal flotation devices, or life jackets, on board, in a place where they can be found quickly in case of an emergency.

Another important reminder: they're required for passengers under the age of 12.

And the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources reminds boaters to be aware of their surroundings while out in the water.

"The main thing is, any time you're boating, you have to be aware of what's around you at all times," says Sgt. Chris McKnight, of the DNR's District 6. "People get very complacent, because it's boating and people are relaxed. But with more people out there, there's more of a possibility they aren't following the rules of the water, and a collision could occur."

In the past, alcohol, and, more recently, drugs, has been a big factor in fatal boating accidents.

The DNR has increased its water patrols in recent years, leading to a decline in alcohol-related accidents.