FRANKLIN COUNTY, Va. – Labor Day weekend on the Smith Mountain Lake will be all hands on deck for conservation police.
Officer Adam Roberts said this year is on track to break a dangerous record.
So far in 2021, there have been 18 reportable boating incidents at Smith Mountain Lake, including one fatality. There were also 18 incidents in 2020 at the lake. which was the most anywhere in the state, according to the Department of Wildlife Resources.
“It’s a little heartbreaking,” said Roberts. “I would say it’s a little higher than expected.”
Reportable incidents include property damage over $2,000, injuries that require more than first aid, deaths and missing persons.
“We’ve also had several other accidents on the lake that are not reportable,” said Roberts.
Roberts said out-of-town or new boaters and inattentive drivers are usually at fault.
“A boating accident can happen within a split second.”
With one of the busiest weekends of the year looming, Roberts said that drivers need to take a boater safety course, have a dock-side checklist, and have life jackets on board for every passenger.
Pay attention, particularly during water sports, and have your passengers be on the lookout too. Also, slow down in No Wake Zones.
“Just make sure you’re aware of what you’re doing, what other people are doing on the lake. And also have your passengers assisting in being aware. Because if maybe you see something [and] you’re paying attention [to] what’s ahead of you, there could be a boat coming from your left or your right,” said Roberts.
Don’t bow or stern ride and if you’re going to drink, have a sober driver.
“We’ll be out enforcing OUI’s so just make sure if you do consume any type of alcohol at all, I would recommend having someone as a DD that doesn’t consume alcohol and that they can operate,” said Roberts. “Have fun, but be safe.”