Reminder to Practice Boat Safety this Weekend

OUACHITA PARISH -- With warmer weather sticking around, more folks have taken to the water. Law enforcement reminds boaters to practice safety this Memorial Day weekend.

There's nothing quite like cruising down the river. Meet Sgt. Justin Goudy.

"Love my job," voiced Goudy. "Wouldn't want to do anything else ever."

He gets to do this for a living, working law enforcement for the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF). Sgt. Goudy wants the public to enjoy their time on the water too, safely.

A record low 13 boating fatalities were reported last year in Louisiana, down from the state's average of 28. Wildlife and Fisheries reminds all boaters to practice safety during Safe Boating Week.

"Just please wear your life jackets," reminded Goudy. "We're out. We're looking for them. And we'll be out heavy this weekend in full force."

All vessels in public waters are subject to routine boat safety checks.

"When life jackets aren't worn, then drownings happen," explained Goudy. "That's one of the main things we're trying to prevent when we do boating safety checks. We don't have to have probable cause. We're pulling over every boat to make sure that you meet the safety standards as far as life jackets registration."

During a ride-along on Friday morning, the Ouachita River was mainly empty. But, one boat we ran across did not have on their life vests.

Turns out they were okay since they were operating an 18-foot tiller handle boat, which doesn't require life vests for adults.

Law enforcement will also be watching for alcohol use.

"You are allowed to have open containers in a boat," Goudy stated. "You just must have a sober driver. It's okay to have a good time. Out here on the water you're allowed to drink. Just have a sober operator. Because we will be looking for that. And we will be taking you to jail should you choose to disobey it."

And they'll keep an eye on age groups. Louisiana law requires that all children 16 years of age and younger wear a U.S. Coast Guard approved PFD while underway on a vessel less than 26 feet long. The PFD must be fastened and of the proper size for the child.

"That is something we're really sticklers on is children not wearing their life jackets," said Goudy.

As an incentive, free t-shirts will be given to kids found wearing life jackets.

Check this list for all of LDWF's boating regulations.

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