SIKESTON -- As boaters and swimmers venture out on the water this Fourth of July, they're encouraged to be keep a lookout and use navigation rules.
Sgt. Jerry Callahan, public information officer for Missouri State Highway Patrol's Water Patrol Division, said this summer holiday is one of the busiest weekends of the year -- especially when the weather cooperates.
"With the Fourth falling on a Monday, people will celebrate it one weekend rather than picking between two weekends so we expect higher numbers of people out on the water this year," Callahan said.
The holiday also makes for one of the busiest times for nighttime navigation on the water as boaters tend to tend to go out on the water to watch fireworks displays, Callahan said. While viewing fireworks from the water can be unique experience, it is illegal to light fireworks from a boat so leave them on shore, he said.
Being on the water after sunset poses additional issues boaters need to take into account.
"You need to make sure your navigation lights on the boat are in good working order prior to going out on the water," Callahan said.
Bring extra light bulbs in case a bulb goes out or breaks, he suggested.
"With the traffic being at its highest, we tell people to take extra time and leave plenty of room between you and the other boats," Callahan said.
Missouri's night time speed limit on the water is 30 miles per hour. While there are fewer boat crashes after dark, they tend to involve more serious injuries due to reduced reaction times and distances, according to Patrol statistics.
Callahan said the vast majority of boaters and swimmers follow rules and exercise safety precautions, but every year there are some who don't.
Last year there were 17 boating crashes worked over the holiday weekend, which included one boating fatality and two drowning deaths. There were 40 boating-while-intoxicated arrests across the state.
Wearing life jackets is part of all water and swimming safety, Callahan said. In Missouri, children under 7 years of age must wear lifejackets anytime they're on a boat.
"We hope everybody enjoys the Fourth and the weekend and we have a great rest of the summer," Callahan said.
For the entire story, see the June 30 edition of the Standard Democrat or click here to log on to the electronic edition.