The drive to stress increased safety on S.C. waterways only runs at one speed, full throttle, for the S.C. Department of Natural Resources.
Last week in Manning, DNR personnel began a series of six public meetings across the state through early September in preparation for potential regulation changes, to let the public inquire and weigh in on measures to increase safety on lakes, rivers and the Atlantic coastline.
8,000 miles of rivers in S.C.
460,000 acres of lakes in S.C.
485,000 registered boats in S.C.
Join the Grand Strand-area forum at 7 p.m. Thursday at Horry-Georgetown Technical College Burroughs & Chapin Auditorium, off U.S. 501 in Conway. Other sessions are set for Charleston, Clover, Clemson and Chapin.
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Lt. Kim Leverich, outreach coordinator from the DNR and based in Columbia, has been involved with boater safety education for more than two decades. She shared some statistics about boating’s deep stake in South Carolina, which besides the coastline, includes 8,000 miles of rivers and 460,000 acres of lakes, and that as of 2014, records showed about 485,000 registered boats, putting the Palmetto State in the top 10 of all 50 states consistently in numbers of registrations.
Question | With boating being a way of life in South Carolina, how vast is this pastime?
Answer | You think of fishing boats and personal watercraft such as Jet Skis, and they can go year round here, especially in Charleston, Hilton Head Island and Lake Murray.
Q. | What prompted the scheduling of these public meetings that touch every corner of the state?
A. | The last time we had an overhaul of our boating laws was in the late 1990s. Also, a young man killed by a drunken boater on Lake Murray led to passage of “Drew’s Law” – The Boating Safety Act of 1999.
A lot of people don’t even know that if you’re closer than 50 feet to a dock, you have to go at idle speed, with no wake, and that zone goes 100 yards within the Atlantic coastline. ... When you look at the N.C. boater education law and ours, there’s a big difference, on who’s required to take a course. At each public meeting, we’ll have surveys on hand, and everyone’s asked to complete a survey, then we’ll go from there and see what we can get worked out. ...
We encourage folks to come out and let us know what they’re seeing, or what they want.
Always keep a safe speed, keep a proper lookout at all times, and wear those life jackets.
Lt. Kim Leverich
Q. | Where is the highest density of boating collisions in our state?
A. | We have a statistics book from our marine law enforcement division out of Charleston. ... Horry County and Charleston County stay neck and neck in the most boating accidents, going back and forth. ... Every now and then, there might be another county with the most, but for the most part, it’s been between those two counties, and both also have high boating traffic with tourists.
Q. | How vital a role are DNR Boating Education Classes and “About Boating Safety” by local U.S. Coast Guard Artillery flotillas and other groups for newcomers to this pastime and as refreshers for longtime boaters?
A. | For anyone younger than 16 to operate a personal watercraft, or boat powered by 15 horsepower or more, without adult supervision, they have to take a boater safety course. Go to our website (www.dnr.sc.gov/education/boated.html) and register for a class. We also have an online “Boat South Carolina Course” that a private company manages. So we have several different options for taking a course. ... There is no reason why someone who drives a boat should not take one of those. You’d be amazed at how many people don’t know the rules of the road. ... We can never talk about safety enough.
Q. | What basic reminders about boating safety merit repeating?
A. | Always keep a safe speed, keep a proper lookout at all times, and wear those life jackets. ... We see a lot of incidents, too, and everyone needs to remember: Just because there’s not a wake zone, it doesn’t mean it’s time to go as fast as you can. Lots of boaters cause damage from their boat wakes, and you’re responsible for a boat wake.
Contact STEVE PALISIN at 444-1764.
If you go
What | Boating safety meeting, in preparation for potential regulation changes to discuss measures to increase safety on S.C. waterways
With | S.C. Department of Natural Resources personnel
When | 7 p.m. Thursday
Where | Horry-Georgetown Technical College Burroughs & Chapin Auditorium, off U.S. 501 in Conway
How much | Free.
▪ 803-734-3447 or www.dnr.sc.gov/boating.html
▪ Lt. Kim Leverich – 800-277-4301, or email LeverichK@DNR.SC.Gov.
Also | An instructor-led, DNR S.C. Boating Education Class, 9:15 a.m.-3 p.m. Aug. 11 at Hobcaw Barony, on U.S. 17, north of Georgetown, for free; sign up at www.register-ed.com/events/view/64589; or take online course at www.boat-ed.com/southcarolina/index.html, for $29.50 fee upon passage.