GUNTERSVILLE, Ala. — Memorial Day is right around the corner, and while you may be planning to hop on your boat this weekend, Alabama Marine Police are getting ready to patrol the busy waters.
Troopers say they'll be watching for drunk drivers and strongly suggest having a designated driver. Just like in a car, drinking and driving a boat can lead to a bad accident.
Trooper Gary Mobley said, "In any boating accident, you have to survive twice. You have to survive the collision if you're in a collision type, and then you have to survive in the water. And we all can tell you, the water will not give you any slack. It will take your life in a heart beat."
Life jackets are the seat belts of the water. They must fit properly and be worn in kayaks, canoes, and boats. Kids under eight years old must wear one at all times.
"One of the things that we have is they all grab a life jacket and put on that child, and as funny as it sounds, when they put the life jacket on the child all you can see is the child's head sticking out of the life jacket. That is not correct," said Trooper Eric Watson. "If that child is thrown into the water, the life jacket is going to come off."
A big problem troopers see on the water is people riding on the outside of the boat.
"They've got the little ones on the very front of the pontoon boat hanging their feet over the front of the boat," said Trooper Watson. "It's going to be a holiday weekend and there are lots of waves on the water because there are lots of boats and it catches those kids feet, those kids are going to be hurt before you can do anything."
Patrolling this year is a bit different, marine police also have to keep an eye out for social distancing violations.
"If it's a single family on a pontoon boat, we're not cracking down on that, but if we observe a pontoon boat with fifteen college students on it, then there's going to be a problem," said Trooper Mobley.
If you do violate social distancing guidelines when out on the water, you could face a fine.