U.S Coast Guard wants to ensure a safe Memorial Day weekend

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. -- The United States Coast Guard Auxiliary Flotilla at Ditto Landing is preparing boaters for the Memorial Day weekend.

With more boats on the water this weekend Commander Terry Mills said he wants to make boaters aware that just like the rules of the road, there are rules of the river.

"Wearing your life vest, don't drink while you're boating, watch what you're doing on the water. Be aware, don't be distracted while you're out there boating," he said.

The warning of not drinking and boating is repeated every summer, but in the last year of statistics there were over 656 boating deaths nationwide.

"Over 71 percent of those were alcohol related. It was the number one killer. You've got to think before you get on that boat. It's just like in your car, you've got to think before you get behind that wheel," said Commander Mills.

Another often repeated warning is to wear life jackets. Mills said extra vigilance is needed this weekend.

"Our water is still a little bit up and we are expecting more rain to the area for the weekend. The water does increase, we do have more debris. It's even more dangerous for your paddle boats if they're out on the Tennessee river or some of our tributaries," he explained.

He recommends every boater out there have a radio in your boat. The Coast Guard monitors 24/7.

"You can call us on channel 16 if there's an emergency. If not, make sure you have a good charged cell phone and call for help," said Mills.

The Whitesburg-Ditto Landing Flotilla of the U.S Coast Guard Auxiliary is offering free boat inspections until close of the marina Saturday night, which is sundown.