Boating safety on southern Illinois lakes

Boating safety on southern Illinois lakes
By: Arnold Wyrick
With the Memorial Day weekend fast approaching many people are getting their boats ready to hit the lakes for the first time this year.  But, as you prepare to head out keep in mind that the Illinois Conservation Police are also going to be out on the waterways enforcing the laws and regulations.

One of the first things they're going to be looking for is the required safety equipment all boats must have if their on the water. "They should have a life-jacket for each person on board.  They should be out, so they can get to them in short notice.  Children under 13 years of age have to wear their life-jacket at all times when they're on a boat," says Officer Steve Vasicek.

Officers are also going to be checking to make sure boaters have their battery compartments secured and a sound device on board.

And Officer Vasicek says people can drink alcohol while out on the water, if they are of legal age to do so.  But the same rules on the road are the same on the lakes. "The same blood alcohol level is enforced on boat operators as is automobile drivers. But, there is no open container laws as there are for drivers on the roads.  We're serious though and there will be no exceptions, you can not be intoxicated if you're planning on driving a boat," Officer Vasicek said.

Fisherman must have their fishing license on their person if they are fishing, and slot limits, along with creel limits will be enforced.  And on those lakes with horsepower restrictions boaters can only use their big motors for loading and unloading of their boats.  Once they are underway on the water they must use their smaller motor, or trolling motors.

Keep in mind unlike out on the roadways, where an officer must have probable cause to stop you.  The conservation police do not need probable cause to pull you over. "It's part of our work.  We have inspection authority.  We don't necessarily have to justify why we pulled you over.  It can be just for a routine safety inspection, we don't need to have a reason," Officer Vasicek said.

So expect to see plenty of officers out on the water this upcoming weekend, and throughout the summer months.