MT. JULIET, Tenn. (WKRN) — Heading into Memorial Day weekend, the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) is sharing an urgent safety reminder to boaters planning to enjoy time on the water.

“We want to make sure that everyone’s having fun on the water, but we also want to make sure that everyone’s behaving safely,” said TWRA Officer Hunter Daniels.

So far in 2023, there have been nine deadly boating incidents. That’s one more than this time last year.

In total for 2022, there were 29 fatal boating incidents, an increase from 22 that happened in 2021.

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Daniels said drunk driving is the leading cause for boating accidents in Tennessee.

“The number one thing we’re going to be looking for is impaired officers,” said Daniels. “An impaired operator on the water takes their boat back to the boat ramp, puts their boat on the trailer and they now become an impaired operator on the road. Make sure you always have a sober operator.”

The TWRA recommends the following tips for boaters:

  • Take a boating safety course. Gain valuable knowledge and on-water experience in a boating safety course with many options for novice to experienced boaters.
  • Check equipment. Schedule a free vessel safety check with local U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary or U.S. Power Squadrons to make sure all essential equipment is present, working and in good condition.
  • Make a float plan. Always let someone on shore know the trip itinerary, including operator and passenger information, boat type and registration, and communication equipment on board.
  • Wear a life jacket. Make sure everyone wears a life jacket – every time. A stowed life jacket is no use in an emergency.
  • Use an engine cut-off device. An engine cut-off device, or engine cut-off switch, is a proven safety device to stop the boat’s engine should the operator unexpectedly fall overboard.
  • Watch the weather. Always check the forecast before departing on the water and frequently during the excursion.
  • Know what’s going on around you at all times. Nearly a quarter of all reported boating accidents last year were caused by operator inattention or improper lookout.
  • Know where you’re going and travel at safe speeds. Be familiar with the area, local boating speed zones and always travel at a safe speed.
  • Never boat under the influence. A BUI is involved in one-third of all recreational boating fatalities. Always designate a sober skipper.
  • Keep in touch. Have more than one communication device that works when wet. VHF radios, emergency locator beacons, satellite phones, and cell phones can all be important devices in an emergency.

“If we can save one life, one additional life through our efforts… then we’ve done our job,” said Daniels.