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How to Boat Safely on Lake Lanier this Labor Day Holiday Weekend


With Labor Day fast approaching, here are some helpful tips and facts to know to ensure a safe weekend on the lake:

  1. To operate a boat on the waters of Georgia you must be 16 years of age and have a proper ID (driver’s license or other government-issued ID that describes the person, a photograph and birth date) on your person; ages 12-15 can operate a boat or private watercraft (PWC) that is less than 16 feet in length if they have passed a boater education course approved by the GA DNR and have a card onboard.

  2. You must have a Georgia Certificate of Boat Registration and a validation decal to legally operate your boat. The certificate must be on board and available for inspection; the registration number and validation decal must be displayed from left to right on both sides of the bow.

  3. The Hull Identification Number (HIN) is a serial number that uniquely identifies a boat. The HIN is analogous to a VIN on a car. All boats manufactured after 11/1/72 must bear a HIN. The HIN number is usually found on a metal or plastic plate on the transom on the right starboard.

  4. Boating capacity is based on the class of the boat. There are 4 classes of boats based on their length--as measured from the tip of the bow in a straight line to the stern: Class A (less than 16 feet), Class 1 (16 to 26 feet), Class 2 (26 to 40 feet), Class 3 (40 feet or longer). Always check the capacity plate usually near the operator’s position or on the boat’s transom. This plate indicates the maximum weight capacity or the maximum number of people that the boat can safely carry. PWCs do not have a capacity plate; always follow the recommended capacity on the manufacturer’s warning decal.

  5. These are the general requirements for equipment that must be on board the vessel (a detailed list can be found on www.gadnrle.org/boating-rules-regulations): (a) Boating Safety Certificate, (b) Boat Registration, (c) Validation Decals, (d) Personal Flotation Devices For Everyone on Board, (e) 1 Throwable Flotation Device, (f) Fire Extinguisher, (g) Navigation Lights.

  6. PWCs are not allowed to operate between sunset and sunrise. Those on PWCs must wear a PFD (personal flotation device) at all times. A PWC cannot run around, ride or jump the wake of, or be within 100 feet of another moving boat or PWC unless it is overtaking the other boat in compliance with the rules for encountering other boats. When a PWC is overtaking another boat, it must not change course in order to ride or jump the wake of the boat being overtaken. It is unlawful for an owner of a PWC to allow anyone else to operate their PWC in such a way that it violates the Georgia Boat Safety Act.

  7. Children under the age of 13 must wear a PFD at all times while on any moving vessel unless the child is within a fully enclosed, roofed cabin.

  8. Georgia honors all other states’ registrations, provided the boat is not used in excess of 60 consecutive days.

  9. Don’t drink and operate a boat! A criminal charge of BUI (Boating Under the Influence) is a serious offense in Georgia punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 and/or jail time for up to one year. A person found operating a boat or PWC under the influence while a child under the age of 14 years is on board is also guilty of the separate charge of endangering a child. In Georgia, it is illegal for anyone under the age of 21 to operate a boat if their blood alcohol level is 0.02 or higher. For individuals 21 and over, it is illegal to operate a boat if their blood alcohol level is 0.08 or higher. Georgia DNR officers have the authority to stop and board your vessel in order to check that you are complying with state laws. By operating a boat or PWC on Georgia waters, you have consented to be tested for alcohol or drugs if requested by a law enforcement official. If you refuse to be tested, you will lose your privilege to operate a boat or PWC for up to one year, and your refusal may be offered into evidence against you at a trial. Just remember this simple rule: DON’T DRINK AND BOAT! Boating is a fun way to celebrate the last summer holiday before fall kicks off, but getting hurt in a boating accident or getting a BUI is not.

While we hope everyone has a safe holiday weekend on the lake, should you find yourself with an unexpected legal problem our team at Weaver Law Firm stands ready to help. We have attorneys experienced in personal injury and criminal defense, as well as many other areas of Georgia law. We have two offices conveniently located in North Georgia. Our North Forsyth County office is located directly on GA 400—brand new, beautiful office—you can’t miss us. The Gainesville/Hall County office is located at the corner of Jesse Jewell Pkwy and E.E. Butler Pkwy—the busiest intersection in town—next door to the Hall County Courthouse. We have a 5-Star rating with over 300 reviews on Google; we are committed to the highest level of customer service. Contact us at the Cumming office at 470-297-1515 or the Gainesville office at 770-503-1582 if you need us; THE CONSULTATION IS FREE.

Have a fun and safe holiday weekend!

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