Boats make their way across the waters of Grand Lake on a summer day. If you are planning to head to the lake, or the scenic Illinois River for the Labor Day weekend, the Grand River Dam Authority wants to remind you to boat smart, safe and sober.

With the Labor Day holiday right around the corner, many people are planning to spend the long weekend on the water. For those heading to Grand Lake, Lake Hudson or the scenic Illinois River, the Grand River Dam Authority Police Department is sharing some important safety tips that can help promote safe outings.

While visitors are encouraged to practice safe social distancing, they are also encouraged to practice safety on the water by wearing a life jacket. According to the United States Coast Guard, drowning is the cause of three-fourths of all boating fatalities, and among those fatalities 85 percent of the victims were not wearing life jackets.

“Labor Day weekend is always an active time on the lakes and river and we encourage the public to come out and have a great time,” said GRDA Vice President of Corporate Communications Justin Alberty. “However, that great time always starts with wearing your life jacket, using common sense on the water and always boating and floating safe, smart and sober.”

Here are some important “DO’s and DONT’s” to keep in mind whenever you visit the water:

  • Do wear a life jacket. For those floating the river, children 13 years of age and under are required to wear a life jacket at all times. On the lake, children 12 years of age and younger are required to wear a life jacket on vessels under 26 feet long. GRDA encourages everyone to wear a life jacket at all times.
  • Don’t drink and boat. Alcohol use continues to be the single leading factor contributing to boating accidents.
  • Do know the water and environment.
  • Do keep a good lookout while underway.
  • Do shut engines off when people are in the water near your boat.
  • Do observe the nautical “rules of the road.”
  • Do check the weather forecast before getting underway.
  • Do keep a balanced load and trim boat.
  • Don’t overload the boat.
  • Don’t ride on the gunwale, bow, seat backs or any place that is not designated for sitting.
  • Don’t swim or boat alone. Stay within sight of companions.
  • For those floating the river, do let the commercial float operator know if anyone in the party are a first-time or novice floater(s). They may be able to pair them with an experienced paddler/floater or float the person in a raft where there is a lesser chance for capsizing.
  • Don’t dive into the river from bridges, bluffs, stream banks and trees.
  • Do respect the weather and the water. If tired while floating, take a break on the bank or on a gravel bar to rest.

If you have an emergency on the water, call 911. For more information about the GRDA Police Department or how an officer can assist you in a non-emergency situation, contact the department at (918) 256-0911 or visit grda.com. Have a safe and enjoyable holiday weekend.