SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WCIA)–The Illinois Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Coast Guard are urging anyone on the water to be extra cautious ahead of a busy holiday weekend for boating.

“Crowded waterways are no place to throw caution to the wind,” Lt. Curt Lewis, Illinois’ Boating Law Administrator, said. “We want everyone to enjoy the long holiday weekend with family and friends. We also want them all to make it home safely with nothing but fun memories.”

Authorities are urging caution after several tragic accidents this summer. They will be patrolling the Illinois rivers, lakes, and Lake Michigan throughout the weekend looking for safety violations and reckless operators.

The IDNR is urging those in kayaks and canoes to use caution. They recommend the following safety tips for canoers and kayakers:

  • Paddle in a group if possible, and be extra cautious if paddling in water colder than 75 degrees.
  • In areas with motorboat traffic, paddle closer to the shore and approach waves head-on or at a slight angle to avoid capsizing.
  • If you do capsize/fall out, keep your feet pointed downstream and avoid touching the bottom in case of getting stuck. Stay upstream of the boat to avoid getting pinned.
  • Scan for hazards such as low-hanging tree limbs, low bridges, rocks, or rapids.

They added the following tips for anyone on a boat:

  • Life jackets save lives.
  • Never operate a boat under the influence of drugs and alcohol.
  • Take a boat safety course.
  • Confirm all essential equipment is working and in good condition.
  • Always tell a friend or loved one about your trip itinerary including operator and passenger information, the boat type and registration, and communication equipment on board.
  • Keep an eye on the weather.
  • Use an engine cut-off switch for stopping a boat engine should the operator fall overboard.
  • Be aware of your surroundings at all times and always travel at safe, legal speeds.