The Missouri Highway patrol Water Patrol Division will kick-off the summer boating season with National Safe Boating Week, which takes place May 16-22, 2020.

National Safe Boating Week is purposefully scheduled just prior to Memorial Day weekend, which many people consider the kickoff to the boating season.

The national safe boating program is aimed at creating awareness and promoting safety on the water.

“It’s important that boaters are prepared before they navigate Missouri waterways,” said Colonel Eric T. Olson, superintendent of the Missouri Highway Patrol. “Checking your boat for the proper equipment and inspecting for any mechanical issues that may have developed over the winter months should be a standard boating practice.”

On Lake of the Ozarks, 13 officers will be assigned to patrol the lake for the boating season. One of those 13 is in training and there are three vacancies that will not be filled this summer, according to Capt. Matt Walz, director of the Water Patrol Division.

Walz said boaters need to be aware of the boating rules and regulations before heading out on the water. An equipment inspection is always a good idea. Boaters need to make sure required equipment is on board and always have a designated driver.

Boaters on Lake of the Ozarks who would like an equipment inspection done prior to or during the boating season can contact Troop F and make that request.

Life jackets save lives and should be worn whenever possible out on the water. If not worn, a life jacket must be readily accessible for each occupant on board a vessel. For children under seven, and for the occupants of a personal watercraft underway, wearing life jackets is required.

Boaters should use caution while fueling up their vessel. Fuel leaks can develop over time, so inspecting the engine compartment of an inboard or inboard/outboard vessel prior to use, and each time you refuel, is a must. In addition to inspecting the engine compartment, the blower system should be activated for at least four minutes after refueling is complete, but prior to starting the vessel. Starting a boat engine can ignite gas fumes that have accumulated in the engine compartment, so don’t cut corners when it comes to these safety precautions.

Here are some other key boat operation tips:
1) Be aware of boats in the vicinity and maintain a safe distance from them.
2) Adjust your speed for the conditions ... not every boat is created equal when it comes to navigating rough water conditions.
3) Turn off the boat engine while passengers are entering or exiting the water.
4) If you could potentially be out on the water after dark, make sure your navigation lights are working before you leave the dock or ramp.
5) Be a courteous boater and watch your wake.

6) It is illegal for passengers to sit in certain areas of boats, such as the bow area or rear deck, without adequate railing while a vessel is underway.

7) Slow down. Boaters often travel too fast for conditions, such as crossing large wakes. The operator of a vessel traveling too fast for the conditions, such as crossing large wakes.

8) Don't follow too closely, especially when on a plane. Boats traveling too close together while on plane leaves little room for error.

Boaters are reminded to contact the Missouri State Highway Patrol by dialing *55 on a cellular phone if they need assistance or observe another boater operating a vessel in an unsafe manner.

Please remember to observe social distancing and other CDC guidelines.