The Missouri Highway Patrol has been active on the waterways of the state’s busiest lake during the early portion of this year’s summer boating season.
In the first three weeks beginning Memorial Day weekend, troopers issued 12 citations and 84 warnings for navigation light violations on Lake of the Ozarks. The patrol says navigation lights are vital at night to avoid accidents, and to alert other boaters to the whereabouts of a watercraft.
Most boats are required to have a red light on the left side, and a green light on the right side, both of which must be visible for one mile. A white light in the center of the vessel must be visible for two miles at night.
Sergeant Scott White with the state Highway Patrol says troopers are focused on navigation lights at night. “Every night that the troopers are out there on the water, that’s one of the first violations that they’re looking for, because just due to the fact of how dangerous it can be if someone is not displaying navigation lights” said White.
The Highway Patrol notes navigation lights don’t necessarily help boaters see better at night. From that perspective, it’s illegal to display spotlights or docking lights continuously. Those lights can be used briefly to identify hazards in the water.
250,000 people flock to Lake of the Ozarks every weekend during the summer according to the Convention and Visitors Bureau. The Highway Patrol says the most likely causes of boating accidents are inexperience, inattention and a failure to keep a proper lookout.
White says 73 percent of boating crashes in Missouri involve only one watercraft.
“A lot of times our injuries come from people getting injured inside of a boat. A boat will run over a wake, someone will be thrown into the air, and they land on the floor of the boat, or they land in a seat. In the emergency room at Lake of the Ozarks, a lot of times they see those compression fractures or those back injuries as a result of a boat driving over a large wake.”
The large wakes are caused by boats that are “plowing”, which occurs in the transitional speed between being idle, and traveling at a faster pace.
Sergeant White says it’s important to watch out for other boats on the water because there are no designated lanes of traffic, like on roadways.
“One boat does not have the right of way over another boat when it comes to actual statutes. And that’s why we encourage boaters out there to be familiar with, not only the rules of the water, but also the law.”
Missouri has a 30 mph nighttime speed limit effective 30 minutes after sunset to one hour before sunrise.