As the first of the summer’s three major holiday weekends approaches, public safety officials are urging folks to use caution.
Forsyth County Sheriff’s Capt. Mark Hoffman said several of the agency’s specialized units will be out Memorial Day weekend on the roads, in parks and on Lake Lanier.
“This is the first big boating holiday of the year and we want to make sure we kick it off and everybody’s very safe and having a good time,” Hoffman said.
“We are expecting a large amount of traffic on the lake this weekend. It’s supposed to be beautiful, so be courteous.”
Crowds are likely, with the lake at 1,069.05 feet above sea level, near its summer full pool, and the weather forecast calling for sunny skies and high temperatures near 90 degrees.
Hoffman urged lake-goers to "use good common sense."
Those who plan to include alcoholic beverages in their revelry should use designated drivers in vehicles and boats. Boaters should also make sure they have enough personal flotation devices for everyone on board.
“If they have any questions, they can flag down one of our deputies that’s out there and they can answer boating safety questions and assist them,” Hoffman said.
Forsyth County Fire Capt. Jason Shivers noted that state law requires flotation devices also be worn by those on the Chattahoochee River between Buford Dam and Hwy. 20.
“The potential for disaster is very high during times of heavy use on Lake Lanier, so please use extreme caution,” Shivers said.
“All the rules still apply. Don’t go in the water if you can’t swim, swim with a buddy and wear life preservers.”
Shivers said that although the lake is beginning to warm, the water may still be too cold for safe swimming. He said the shock of cold water can cause muscle cramps that could lead to drowning.
Once someone goes under water, the "likelihood of making a rescue is very, very slim.”
“So if you see someone struggling in the water, call 911 immediately,” Shivers said.
According to the state Department of Natural Resources, there were 135 boating accidents and 16 boating-related fatalities on state waters last year.
In addition, conservation rangers cited 139 people for boating under the influence.
Authorities are also reminding those who plan to hit the road this weekend to be careful.
The Governor’s Office of Highway Safety’s “Click it or Ticket” campaign is under way and safety belt checkpoints will be conducted statewide.
The state Department of Transportation will suspend construction-related lane closures from 5 this morning until 10 p.m. Monday.
The department is asking that motorists continue to use caution, however, as traffic is expected to be heavy throughout the long holiday weekend.
“Historically, Georgia experiences more than 2,000 crashes resulting in more than a dozen fatalities and more than a thousand injuries during the Memorial Day weekend,” said DOT Commissioner Vance. C. Smith Jr.
“Enjoy your holiday, but please be very careful while driving.”