LAKE MEAD (KTNV) — Memorial Day weekend is here, and that means many will be headed to the water to enjoy the warm weekend weather. With boating injuries in the thousands over the last few years, the local coast guard wants to remind you of a few tips before hitting the waves.
Boating season here in the valley is prompting officials with Lake Mead to encourage boaters to beware of safety hazards while out on the water this Memorial Day weekend. Lake Mead has seen more than 3 million visitors each summer between May and September in recent years, and roughly 8 million visitors a year since it was first established in 1964 as a recreational site. As the fifth most visited national park, numbers over the holiday weekend are expected to be high.
Chad Taylor, with Lake Mead Mojave Adventures, says it's important to be prepared.
“Planning ahead is making sure number one, all of your safety devices are in order if you’re bringing your own boat, make sure your plugs in your boat, make sure you have your fire extinguishers, make sure you have your throw rings and your life jackets. Make sure you have your flags. Make sure that if anything was to happen you have your cell phones charged, those kinds of things,” said Taylor.
Over time Lake Mead has dropped from 1225’ to a low of 1068’ - costing the national park service upwards of 57 million dollars to accommodate guests by building new ramps and marinas. But, the fluctuating levels aren’t stopping people from visiting the reservoir in fact they’re encouraged to come to Lake Mead.
“It’s an enormous lake, and even with low lake levels, there’s still plenty of water it’s still plenty of room to run around,” said Taylor.
But even with room to roam, the dangers out on Lake Mead are ever-present. Alcohol remains a top factor in boat-related crashes with over a hundred deaths as of 2019, following operator inexperience, inattention, and speed.
“Treat it like a vehicle. Alcohol consumption on the lake is a big deal, people come out to enjoy themselves, have a good time. But make sure you have a designated driver have somebody that is operating the boat that is obviously not intoxicated and not drinking we see a lot of accents on that side of it,” said Taylor.
Drowning accounts for roughly 79% of known boating fatalities, of those victims, 86% weren’t wearing a life vest. One of the most important pieces of safety equipment is your life jacket and children under the age of 13 are required to wear one while on a vessel.
Game Warden James with the U.S. Coast Guard patrols the waters at Lake Mead, and says weekends like Memorial Day weekend could end up fatal if the right steps aren’t taken on the water.
“A lot of people like to be out on the float tubes and everything like that, and that’s where we get some of our drownings. We head over to Golden Beach and patrol there, to make sure everyone is safe,” said James.
Things like right-of-way apply on the water as well, and just as you can get a DUI on land, the Coast Guard is warning boaters that you can get an OUI for operating any boating vessel under the influence.
“So out here, it is Coast Guard waters, so all those rules regarding flow of navigation apply out there as well as out in the ocean, that the U.S. Coast Guard enforces. So you need to slow down, you need to pay attention, and you need to stay safe. You need to be on that right side but otherwise, there could be a collision on the other end if somebody’s coming around that corner,” said James.
Another thing to note is how to make turns when you notice a boat coming your way. “You need to make at least something that’s noticeable, for the other operator that you’re changing direction and change in speed," said James.
All in all, Lake Mead welcomes people to enjoy the water this Memorial Day weekend, only if you plan on being safe.
For the very latest safety information, you can find it online at www.ndow.org.
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