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So we’re here in Georgia; there’s a lot of laws regarding speed and the distance you need to be between boats. What do people need to know?
Sergeant Mike Barr
Well, there’s a lot of speed factors on the water, especially if you’re operating a vessel or a personal watercraft. You need to always maintain a safe distance. There are certain situations that you need to—especially if you’re within 100 feet of another person, a boat, a bridge, a wharf, a piling, a day-use area, or private residences—that you need to be at idle speed only. Idle speed is defined as the lowest speed necessary in order to still maintain steering on that boat.
OK. So 100 feet away from pretty much any objects or buildings or docks—don’t go fast.
That’s right. Now, there are some exceptions to that. If you’re passing a vessel using proper rules of the road to do that, then you may be within 100 feet. But even at that, you need to consider that these boats, these personal watercrafts, don’t have brakes on them. So if you get into a situation that’s close, you need as much distance as you can in order to effectively stop the vessel.
Do you have an incident that relates to why you need to have safe speed on the water?
One comes to mind. Last year, two personal watercrafts were at very high speeds. As they came into a no wake zone, one was following another. The first operator saw the no wake buoy, immediately left off the throttle. The second person never saw him let off the throttle, hit the first boat, and impacted the passenger directly in the back. And we were uncertain that there might be a fatality. Luckily there wasn’t. But just a good example of why regulating your speed is so necessary, especially in close quarters.
Is there a speed limit out here on the water? I mean, some people think about that. There’s no signs anywhere, right?
You know, we always relate what we do to driving a car because so many people operate a vehicle. There are no speed limits. There’s no speed limit signs. There’s no center road signs. There’s no turn signals. There’s no yield signs. So there’s a different set of rules that apply to when you start navigating on waters—on public waters. And you have to take that into consideration. It’s a different environment. Speed, when you stop a vessel—haven’t seen a brake pedal in one yet. When you go down to the water and you decide it’s time to stop, you literally have to power down, and the resistance of the water is what stops that vessel. You have to consider that the faster you go, the farther it takes for that vessel to stop.
Yeah. That’s a good point.