NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – As temperatures ramp up and the unofficial kickoff to summer begins, boaters are expected to be out in full force. With more boats come more dangers on the water.

According to a release from the Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency, 32 boating-related fatalities occurred in 2020, the most on Tennessee waters in nearly 40 years. Though the TWRA 2020 Boating Incident Report lists 31 deaths for 2020, it is still a massive jump from the eight deaths reported in 2019.

Wildlife Officer Eric Anderson has been manning the waters for nearly two decades and says last year was the busiest yet.

“We had COVID-19 obviously going on, social distancing was encouraged, a lot of folks were out of school, off work, had maybe lost their job so there was no better place to social distance than the outdoors, on our waterways in the woods and so on,” he explained. 

The increased volume on the water translated to an increased number of incidents, with 158 reported in 2020.

“Statistically, the most common cause of incidents is an improper lookout where maybe two boats were coming at each other, didn’t realize the trajectory of the other vessel, and collided,” said Officer Anderson. 

There were 73 collisions reported last year, with 4 fatalities on Old Hickory Lake alone.

Officer Anderson said it’s important to keep an eye out, know the body of water you are traveling, where you’re going. You should also keep in mind waterways can change, especially following heavy rains, which can bring along debris.

“It could obviously damage the prop, it could turn the motor without you doing it unexpectedly and cause you to be thrown in, or out of the boat,” he said. 

Anderson said boating apps, like Navionics, can be a useful tool in learning about the body of water you are traveling. 

“I think we are going to see a busy summer and I can’t imagine it being busier than last year, but it won’t surprise me either…I do anticipate there will be a lot of boats on the water. I know it’s going to be hot, but I hope everybody stays safe and we can have a safe fun summer.”

Officer Anderson said the most important thing you can do to keep from drowning is to wear a life jacket.

The 2021 National Safe Boating Week is May 22-28, it’s held annually the week prior to Memorial Day weekend.