La Crosse, WI (WXOW)-- Beginning Memorial Day weekend, The La Crosse County Sheriff's Department patrols the waterways.
In Wisconsin, anyone ten years or older can drive a motor boat, provided they've passed a safety course. But that course is only required for those born after January 1, 1989.
"The ones that are in the water the longest are sometimes the ones that think they know the most," said Erich Zwicker, a deputy with the Sheriff's Department. "And we find that they're the biggest violators. It's the younger kids that have taken the boater safety course, we find, that understand the rules and understand how to safely operate the motor boat."
Zwicker says one of the most commonly missed questions on the safety exam: the meaning of the green and red lights every motorboat is required to have.
"Boats don't have headlights. So when you see a red light coming at you, you have to stop," Zwicker said. "When you see a green light coming at you that means you have the right of way. But do you know for sure that the other boater has taken a boater safety course to understand that you have the right of way?"
Zwicker and his partner also find people are missing vital safety equipment during boat checks.
"Most boaters should know that they need a fire extinguisher on their boat," said Jordan Stratman, a deputy with the Sheriff's Department. "A lot of times when we do boat checks, they don't have a fire extinguisher."
In addition to those extinguishers all boats must have enough life jackets for everyone on board and a flotation device.
Zwicker says the Sheriff's Department patrols the water not to catch people breaking rules, but just to make sure that everyone is safe.
If you're interested in taking a boater safety course, you can log-on to www.DNR.WI.gov .
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