Summer is the perfect time to get out and enjoy our 600,000 acres of lakes, and more than ninety thousand miles of rivers, streams and creeks that flow through our state.
While we want everyone to have a fun time on the water, part of our responsibility as legislators is to make sure it is a safe place to be for you and your family.
Unfortunately, last year there were 86 reported accidents on the water. While that was a higher number than the year before, we did see a decrease in the number of fatalities. Nine of the 86 accidents resulted in a fatality and another 52 were injured. 5 of the fatalities involved drowning where the victim was not wearing a life vest. And 12 of the accidents involved drugs or alcohol as a primary or a contributing factor.
So this week, we want to remind you about some of the laws the General Assembly has passed over the years concerning water safety.
If you were born after January 1, 1986, the law requires that you take a state approved safe boating course before you operate a boat or personal watercraft.
There are two ways to complete the Arkansas Boating Education course. There are free instructor-led classes or you can opt for an online course for a one-time fee of $24.50. The courses must be approved by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission.
Jet skis and other personal watercrafts are another fun way to explore Arkansas’s lakes and rivers, as long as safety measures are taken. But anyone operating a personal watercraft must be at least 16 years old. Personal watercrafts include brand names such as Jet Ski, Wave Runner, or Sea-Doo. The 87th General Assembly passed Rachel’s law raising the minimum age for operating a personal watercraft from 14 to 16. The law is named after a 15 year old girl who was killed in an accident while operating a watercraft.
And finally, we want to remind everyone that it is mandatory for anyone under the age of 12 to wear a life jacket when they are in a moving boat. Act 517, which passed in 1995, also states there must be a life jacket on board for every single individual regardless of age.
We hope you enjoy everything the Natural State has to offer this summer. Stay safe, use common sense, and if you aren’t certain of all of the rules and regulations check out the Arkansas Game and Fish website at www.agfc.com.