Nationally, recreational boating’s busiest hold is July 4. National boating experts say 3 of 4 of the 12 million registered vessels in the country will be out enjoying the water over the holiday period and Lake of the Ozarks is no exception.

Be safe, be sober and be courteous is the advice from the Missouri Highway Patrol Water Patrol Division as the Lake of the Ozarks readies to host the busiest recreational boating holiday of the season.

Nationally, recreational boating’s busiest hold is July 4. National boating experts say 3 of 4 of the 12 million registered vessels in the country will be out enjoying the water over the holiday period and Lake of the Ozarks is no exception.

With thousands of boaters expected to be on the water, the water patrol division will have all hands on deck. A few simple rules and boater courtesy can prevent problems on the water, according to Capt. Matt Walz, who heads up the water patrol division.

“Be courteous with your wake. If you must create a large wake, do so in the middle of the main channel away from the docks. Boat operators should adjust their speed for the conditions. Many of the injuries we see from boating accidents are back injuries caused when the victim’s boat travels too fast over large wakes,” he said. “Maintaining a proper lookout is very important for boat operators with the increased boating traffic over the holiday weekend. Boat operators must be alert, so make sure you have a designated sober captain.”

Enforcement efforts next weekend, July 5-7, will be stepped up on Lake of the Ozarks and other waterways across the state as the water patrol division focuses on drunk driving as part of Operation Dry Water. The nationwide enforcement effort will include not only large bodies of water, like Lake of the Ozarks, but area float streams that are also popular destinations during the summer months.

Lake area boaters should also be prepared to find the US. Coast Guard on hand for the holiday.

With the sheer volume of boaters on the water, the experts at BoatUS, Boat Owners Association of The United States (BoatUS) says the congestion and nighttime operation requires vigilance. Here are seven safety tips to help boaters survive peak traffic days.

7 Ways to Survive Fourth of July on the Water

1. Boaters will host thousands of guests aboard their vessels this holiday period – many with no boating experience. Before you head out, give a short orientation to guests, not only about essential items, such as how to move about a moving vessel (with one hand always connected to the boat) or how to use the head, but also show them how easy it is to use the VHF radio and safety gear, especially life jackets.

2. For that unexpected young guest without a life jacket, the non-profit BoatUS Foundation’s free Kids Life Jacket Loaner program gives boaters a chance to borrow child-sized life jackets for the day, afternoon, or weekend. Nearly 600 locations across the U.S. ensure that there’s a location near you or ask the marina where you dock the boat.

3. Don’t overload the boat. Be careful about adding extra passengers, coolers and gear, especially with small vessels that are more prone to swamping. It’s also important to keep everyone in the boat and avoid allowing passengers to ride or sit anywhere other than designated places while underway. Riding with legs over the side or on gunnels and seat backs is considered unsafe operation.

4. According to the U.S. Coast Guard, alcohol use is the leading known contributing factor in fatal boating accidents. Wait to celebrate with alcohol until after you’ve safely returned to homeport for the night. Added to the effects of sun, wind and waves, alcohol lowers situational awareness and slows reaction times.

5. After viewing fireworks from the water and pulling up anchor, you may have the urge to rush home. Don’t. Slow down. Opt out of taking that tricky, shallow shortcut home. Be cautious and patient and the odds for a safe return home increase.

6. Avoid the two biggest mistakes. Battery jumps, as a result of running music or other accessories all day, and anchor-line entanglements that occur at crowded fireworks show anchorages, are common requests for on-water assistance over the holiday. Monitor your battery drain, go slow while hauling anchor line, and be super vigilant so you don’t run over someone else’s anchor line after the fireworks show ends.

7. The more lookouts you have aboard at night, the better. However, after dark, white lights in the cockpit or on deck can interfere with your crew’s night vision and their ability to see boating traffic or hazards. Turn off or dim the lighting, especially if using a cell phone, or consider using only red helm or accessory lights on the boat. Portable LED headlamps with red lenses can help your crew get around the boat and preserve their sight for spotting traffic.