Following a deadly Memorial Day weekend on Georgia's waterways, officials are preparing for how they will ensure safety during the summer months.
"We just have to go back and try to do some more education and remind people that safety has to come first when you're in that boat," said Mark McKinnon, spokesman for the Georgia Department of Natural Resources Law Enforcement Division.
Over the past two years, turnout on the lakes for the so-called "unofficial start to the summer" has been less than usual, but in 2022 that all turned around. McKinnon said that the additional traffic was another factor in many of the incidents reported over the weekend.
Following the tragedy on the Wilmington River, which killed five people, the issue of boating under the influence is top of mind for officials.
"My advice is to get a designated operator, capable of driving that boat, that is not going to be drinking," he explained. That just leads to heartache and sorrow. I can tell you, from the years that I've been doing this."
In total, 40 people were arrested for BUIs over the holiday weekend, according to McKinnon. He said this was an increase from the last couple of years.
In addition to BUI, the DNR will also be enforcing the "100 foot Law,' which "requires boat operators to slow to idle speed when they are within 100 feet of docks, piers, bridges, shorelines, or people in the water."
McKinnon said this rule extends to jet skiers who like to jump in the wakes of boats. "We've had several incidents already this year where jet skiers have hit boats because they were trying to jump wakes, and it is extremely dangerous," McKinnon explained.
Officials say many of the tragedies on the lakes and rivers can be prevented by ensuring everyone is wearing life jackets and that you never take your eyes off of your kids.
"It's just terribly tragic when we have to go and notify family, or we have to pull a child out of the water," he told AccessWDUN. "We want people to enjoy the water, to have a good time when they go to the lake, but we also want them to go home at the end of the day."