WAYNESVILLE, Ohio (WDTN) – The week prior to Memorial Day weekend is designated as National Safe Boating Week. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) and the Coast Guard Auxiliary are reminding people of the best do’s and don’ts for boating Ohio’s lakes and rivers.

The Coast Guard Auxiliary has seen an uptick in the number of boats on the water in recent years, but they’re also finding many boaters are not educated.

“That’s our biggest thing now, just making sure that people that are operating a boat they’re safe and they do it educated,” Joshua Johnson with the Coast Guard Auxiliary said.

If you don’t have the proper safety equipment on the water, you could face a citation.

Saturday at Caesar Creek State Park, the Coast Guard Auxiliary, ODNR and other organizations we’re doing safety demonstrations and equipment checks to make sure boaters have all the equipment they need before heading out on the water.

“PFDs, or a life vest, we check for that,” Johnson said. “We make sure that they have some type of warning device if there is an emergency on the boat, whether it’s an audible, a visual, you know, so they can get attraction to somebody. More fire extinguishers than they would need.”

ODNR Natural Resource Officer Garrett Heasley said boating accidents are not uncommon. In 2021 there were 15 boating fatalities in Ohio, according to ODNR.

“They are definitely something we deal with on a frequent basis,” Heasley said. “A lot of these boating accidents can be prevented.”

The two most common issues these agencies see are boaters getting too close to other boaters and alcohol.

“Alcohol is a factor in some of those accidents, so, you know, just for safety reasons, it’s very important that you have a sober operator,” Heasley said.

These agencies said boaters need to be aware of their surroundings, check the weather and water conditions, and always wear a life jacket.

The best way to be prepared and avoid emergency situations on the water is by taking a boating course. Ohio law may require completing a course in order to operate some boats.

“Anything from canoes and kayaks, to powerboats to personal watercrafts, all the way to sailboats, it’s all covered in our courses,” Heasley said.

ODNR and the Coast Guard Auxiliary also recommend boaters should develop a float plan before leaving, which is a detailed plan left with someone that describes where you’re going, when you plan to return and who you are boating with.