With a lot of people on the water over the summer, police have stepped up patrols to make sure boaters are staying safe.
It’s a busy time of year for boating on Smith Mountain Lake, which is one reason why Randy Stow is always careful on the water.
“When we’re on the water, it’s a house rule – everybody that’s on the boat is wearing a life jacket,” Stow said.
Stow has been boating for most of his life and serves on the Smith Mountain Lake Safe Water Council.
“The most important thing is really common sense and courtesy,” he explained. “Keeping distance between other boats, being mindful of the wake that you’re generating.”
Stow said he believes one of the best and easiest ways to protect yourself is wearing a life jacket.
“Life jackets are much like seat belts,” he said. “You can’t wait until you see an accident about to happen to put it on.”
“There are a lot of people out here,” said Karl Martin of the Virginia Conservation Police. “There are thousands of people, and they’re all going in different directions.”
Officers have stepped up patrols on the lake, which sometimes includes checkpoints to catch boaters operating under the influence, Martin said.
“If everyone on the boat is consuming alcohol, then the possibility of everyone on that boat being in trouble or being arrested exists,” he said.
Police have stopped hundreds of boats this holiday weekend, Martin said. He added that people need to make sure they’re following the laws, such as passing opposing boats to the right and operating at safe speeds.
“When somebody else makes a mistake, it doesn’t mean that you’re going to be exempt from getting hurt,” Martin said. “So you have to watch the other driver the same as you do on a highway.”
The lake is typically patrolled 24 hours a day, Martin said. Since Friday, police have made several arrests on the lake on charges like reckless operation of a personal watercraft, he added.