The Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA) is cautioning boaters to practice social distancing and boating safety while out on Alabama’s waterways.
Because schools, businesses and churches have closed indefinitely in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19), more people are spending their free time on Alabama waterways.
Activity on Alabama’s lakes, rivers and other bodies of water typically increases during spring break season, but ALEA’s Marine Patrol Division Troopers have seen numbers spike during the past few days with COVID-19 closures. Troopers are patrolling waterways daily, and are asking people to adhere to Governor Kay Ivey’s order as it relates to combating the spread of the virus.
Alabama beaches were closed Thursday, March 19, but effective at 5 p.m. Saturday, March 28, all non-work related gatherings on 10 persons or more, or non-work related gatherings of any size that cannot maintain a consistent 6-foot distance between individuals, are prohibited.
Troopers with ALEA’s Marine Patrol remind boaters of social distancing, as well as water safety:
• The designated driver practice works just as well on the water as it does on the road. If boaters insist on having alcohol on board, make sure there is a designated driver.
• Be courteous and cautious.
• Follow boating rules. Know what to do in a head-to-head meeting and know the right-of-way rules and regulations.
• Make sure life jackets are accessible, in good condition, sized for the intended individual and U.S. Coast Guard-approved. There must be one personal flotation device (PFD) on board for each person on the boat that is sized and intended for that individual. Children younger than the age of 8 must wear PFDs.
• When boating at night, make sure the required navigation lights are on and in good working order. Operate at slower speeds and don’t venture into unfamiliar territory.
• Give other boaters plenty of room. Don’t operate too closely to private docks or the shoreline, and give skiers and swimmers a wide berth.
• Never overload a vessel. Follow the capacity plate guidelines.
• Make it a habit to check the vessel’s safety equipment before using the vessel -- every time.