Authorities set to patrol waters ahead of busy July 4th weekend

HENRICO COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — Officials say this weekend is one of the busiest times of the year on the water. They hope everyone has a good time, but more importantly, they hope everyone stays safe.

“The biggest thing is that we’re out here trying to educate people and make sure they’re boating safely,” said Officer Dewayne Wilson with Henrico County Police.

On Friday, Wilson walked 8News through what they look for when they’re out on the water during a ride-a-long. He says most of their time is spent making sure boaters are following the law such as keeping the proper distance from other boats, not jumping wakes, and that riders aren’t traveling on the front or the back of a boat. In addition, they look for signs someone shouldn’t be driving.

“How close they come to other boaters, their actions while they’re doing it, what the people on board are actually doing,” said Wilson.

Wilson says the moving water and the sun can have a big impact on people who decide to drink, so have lots of water on hand.

“One beer is equal to drinking three while you’re sitting in your house, so the effect is a little bit quicker than most of them are expecting,” Wilson explained.

“Drunk boating is just like drunk driving,” said Stacey Brown with the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.

Brown says if you suspect someone on the water may be drinking or having a medical emergency call 911. She says there are other reasons to call as well.

“If you’re involved in an accident, an incident on the water, the best course of action is to call 911,” said Brown.

Brown says local dispatchers can quickly determine what to do and who to contact. She says it’s also a good idea to know where you are and what you’ve seen.

“It’s always good to kind have an idea of where you are on the river. Pay attention to what kind of boat they are operating. How many people are on that boat,” said Brown.

And in both emergency and non-emergencies authorities say being aware of your surroundings is key.

“We want to make sure that you’re always keeping a proper lookout and make sure that you’re having a safe day on the water,” said Brown.

Another tip from authorities is to plan ahead. In addition to bringing lots of water, know when the tide is coming in and when it’s going out so you don’t get stuck.

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