With summer vacations driving teens and their families to Thurmond Lake, Ranger 1st Class Bobby Timmerman says he is hoping to keep visitors safe as they frolic in the water.
Timmerman, of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources Law Enforcement Division, is the regular teacher of a boating safety course required for all children 12-15 who plan to operate a boat or personal water craft in the lake.
"It is basically a course to familiarize you with boating, some of the laws of navigation, the rules of the road," Timmerman said. "We don't actually get out there and operate a boat, but we go over the basic rules of operating one."
Timmerman said the free class will be offered Monday and Aug. 14 at Mistletoe State Park. Preregistration is required and can be done by calling (706) 595-4211.
The class satisfies the requirements of the minimum age law. Any child younger than 12 cannot operate a boat or personal watercraft without being accompanied by an adult. Children 12-15 can operate personal watercraft or boats below 30 horsepower alone if they have passed a boating safety course approved by the state DNR and carry their certificate. Otherwise those children must be accompanied by an adult or supervised by an adult.
Timmerman said he most commonly sees people violating what is called the 100-foot rule.
The law, which applies to all boats and personal watercraft, requires their operators to slow to idle speed when they are within 100 feet of docks, piers, bridges, shorelines and people in the water. That means it is illegal to "buzz" other vessels as well as follow closely behind other boats, jump wakes left by the boats or change direction to ride or jump wakes.
"Boats don't have brakes ... They are fun, but they can be dangerous, too," Timmerman said. "We try to educate them (teens) and make them think when they are out there (on the water) what the laws are and to be aware of their surroundings."
Timmerman said all people on personal watercraft are required to be wearing a fastened life jacket that fits and any child younger than 10 on a boat is also required to wear a life jacket whenever the boat is in motion.
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