Law enforcement prepares for Memorial Day weekend boaters, tourists

rlurye@islandpacket.comMay 23, 2014 

Beaufort resident William Rhoten submitted this photo of himself and grandson Marshall out for a cruise on the Beaufort River. Boating safety is a big part of Memorial Day Weekend safety efforts by area officials.

SUBMITTED PHOTO

  • Boat safety instruction

    Free boat safety inspections are scheduled at two Beaufort County locations this weekend:

    • Lemon Island Landing on the Chechesse River, 9 to 11 a.m. Saturday
    • Pinckney Island Landing on Mackays Creek, 10 a.m. to noon Sunday

Memorial Day weekend is expected to attract vacationers and residents alike to Beaufort County's beaches and bars, and several law enforcement agencies are ramping up their presence as well.

The S.C. Department of Natural Resources will concentrate patrols in high-traffic areas, including the Chechesse River and Mackays Creek, spokesman Brett Witt said. The units will watch for unsafe behavior on the water, as well as opportunities to speak with boaters about safety.

"We may flag down a vessel and make sure they have the correct number of (personal flotation devices), lifejackets, other types of equipment," Witt said. They will also be "making sure people are handling alcohol responsibly."

"We will likely have more officers," he said.

Courtesy boat inspections will be offered at the Lemon Island Landing and Pinckney Island Landing, according to a news release. If boaters are found in violation -- whether lacking required safety equipment or proper boat and motor registration -- they will not be ticketed but given a chance to fix the problem before they launch.

Witt said boaters should check fuel levels and drain plugs before launching.

"You'd be surprised how many will not do these things," Witt said. "That's not something you want to find out when you're 50 yards off shore."

The holiday weekend also marks the beginning of the most dangerous time of year for South Carolina's roads. The S.C. Highway Patrol's 100 Deadly Days of Summer campaign extends from Memorial Day to Labor Day.

Beaufort County has not seen a fatal collision over the holiday weekend since 2010, and Jasper County since 2011, according to the state Office of Highway Safety.

However, during last year's campaign, troopers issued 4,603 citations to drivers in Beaufort and Jasper counties, according to Cpl. Sonny Collins.

The Highway Patrol completes another campaign Monday, its first annual "Going After Speeders" initiative, which began May 2. In Beaufort and Jasper counties, troopers tracked violations on U.S. 17, Interstate 95, U.S. 278 and S.C. 170 and gave out 120 speeding tickets and 37 other citations, Collins said.

The Beaufort County Sheriff's Office will also be prepared for larger crowds, Lt. Mike Riley said. As always, deputies will be looking out for alcohol violations and disorderly behavior, he said.

"We want to focus on keeping everyone safe," Riley said.

Follow reporter Rebecca Lurye on Twitter at twitter.com/IPBG_Rebecca.

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