“Anyone out at night is required to have navigation lights running,” Marine Police Officer John Williams said. “Those are the red and green lights on the sides of the boat. The green light is on the starboard, or driver’s side, and the red is on the port, or passenger’s side. They are also required to have a white stern light that should be the tallest thing on the boat and other boaters should have an unobstructed view of that light.”
According to Williams, a large portion of the accidents on Smith Lake happen at night, and about one out of every four accidents stems from a lighting issue.
“That’s one thing we strictly enforce,” Williams said.
He also says that boaters should be familiar with how to change light bulbs and fuses on the water, in case one blows. They should also carry red, white and green chemical lights (similar to glow sticks) that can be used in place of lights in an emergency. Those stick lights can be purchased at sporting goods retailers.
Another common lighting issue on the water is people using docking lights while traveling down the waterway.
“Those lights are made to see something quickly, you turn them on and back off,” Williams said. “Those lights can restrict other boaters’ night vision and make it unsafe out there.”
Marine Police also stress that an important part of boat safety at night is knowing the waterways that you’re traveling. Williams says the better you know the area during the day, the safer it will be to travel it at night.
The crowds that gather at Duncan Bridge Marina usually mean wall-to-wall boats and Williams encourages those boaters to use common sense and courteousness to avoid issues in such a tight space.
“Slow speeds are always best when it’s crowded,” Williams said.
In addition to those tips, Marine Police will enforce all Alabama boating laws, including boaters traveling on the right side of the waterway, signaling if they change directions and vehicles not traveling too close to each other.
All children under the age of eight must be wearing a life jacket and their must be a life jacket on the boat for each passenger. Each boater should also have their license and registration, a ring life preserver and a fire extinguisher.
Common citations on the water include reckless operation issues, such as operating too close to other vessels or spraying other vessels and careless operation, which includes not being seated inside the boat, but sitting on the sun deck or swim platform.
Williams also said that since all three counties bordering the lake are dry counties, alcohol is strictly prohibited on Smith Lake. Drivers can be charged for operating a boat under the influence, just like in a car.