For many, fireworks are the highlight of the Fourth of July celebration, but for others, it’s getting out on the water.
“It’s like a home away from home. It’s relaxation. It’s a hobby,” says boater Paula Tate.
The July 4th holiday is one of the busiest at the lake.
“Our busiest time of the year are the three times, Memorial Day, Labor Day, and July 4th holiday,” says Chief Todd Ohlerich, with Smith Mountain Lake Marine Volunteer Fire Rescue.
But a day of recreational boating can turn tragic if certain precautions are ignored. Many who have died in boating accidents were not wearing life jackets.
“Definitely have a life jacket on the boat for everybody. Life jackets are imperative for a safe day on the water. And anybody under the age of 13, make sure they’re wearing their life jacket,” says Ohlerich.
According to a report issued by the U.S. Coast Guard, a leading contributing factor in fatal boating accidents is alcohol use.
“Drinking and boating is no different than drinking and driving in your car. We tell them the same thing-you should definitely have a designated driver on your boat,” says Ohlerich.
During busy times of the year, like the Fourth of July, it’s incredibly important to pay attention to others who are out on the water.
“Take your time, don’t get in a hurry, watch out for the other drivers,” says Tate.
Ohlerich also says if you have an emergency on the water, call 911 and be familiar with your surroundings so you can communicate your location.
“Try to know where you are on the lake, know what water marker you’re at, because that will help us get to you a lot quicker,” says Ohlerich.