Remember Safety Rules While on the River

Many people consider the Memorial Day Weekend to be the opening boating weekend of the year.

But while it's mostly the same rules for having fun safely as in the past...this year's early boating season holds more dangers to boaters than in the past. KHQA's Melissa Shriver has more on what changes you should look for if you're on an area river or lake.

It's easy to remember what's required before pulling out in your boat. But what you may not be ready for are the hidden dangers lurking just under the surface.

Glenn Sanders is a sergeant with the Illinois Conservation Police and he says river flooding this spring is causing some added problems for boaters to watch out for.

Sgt. Sanders said, "In this particular area right here boats were able to go through last year. There was a lot of silt deposited here and now we have a sand bar out here that is completely exposed. At this time if water comes up another 6 inches that's going to be back up with water but you'll still run aground in that area."

This year's high spring flooding also means more debris like these logs and branches have washed into the river...piling up underneath the surface.

Sgt. Sanders said, "One of the things you want to watch for is any kind of break in the water where some type of obstruction whether it is at the surface or under the water is causing a V shape in the water. That's a good indication that there is something you need to avoid with that boat."

Spring flooding has also caused buoys like these to be removed from their proper positions along the river. Right now the army corp of engineers is doing its best to replace those buoys into their proper positions, but until then boaters need to be careful to navigate channels.

These are just several more reasons to obey the first rule of the aware of your surroundings.

Another interesting fact you may not know is that if you call 9-1-1 on the river your call may be routed to the wrong emergency center hundreds of miles away. Sergeant Glenn Sanders recommends programming the nearest Illinois State Police phone number into your cell phone to make sure they dispatch the right rescue unit to the right area. If you will be on the Mississippi River near Quincy this weekend you should call the State police headquarters in Pittsfield. That number is 217 285-2034.

Also remember the basic rules of navigating the river safely and legally. Boaters must have enough life jackets for all on board...and everyone under 13 must be wearing one at all times. Don't forget your fire extinguisher...they are required on board.

Sgt. Sanders says the intoxication level for boat drivers is the same as for drivers of cars...point 0 8. He says boaters should use a designated driver on the river....and always pay attention to your surroundings.

Sgt. Sanders said, "When you're out, be aware of what's going on around you. Particularly with all the jet skis out there now you need to be watching for what they're doing at all times. Most accidents involve jet skis going in front of boats so they really need to be aware of what's going on when they're out there."

Most river drownings don't occur while boating. They occur when folks swim in the river. That means you need to watch the current and watch your children carefully when docking your boat for some beach time.