HORRY COUNTY, S.C. (WBTW) — An increase in boaters on South Carolina waterways has some people calling for tougher laws and improved water-safety efforts.

“The reason there has been more accidents post-pandemic is because when things let loose an overflow of people just got on the water and there was an issue with something that we call situational awareness,” said John Brown, a U.S. Coast Guard flotilla commander. “People were not being aware of their surroundings and focusing on how to operate the boat safely something we teach thoroughly in our boat education classes.”

Currently, South Carolina only requires people 16 or younger who operate boats powered by 15 horsepower engines by themselves to complete a boating-education course, but some want to see stricter boating education laws in the state.

The family of Stanley Kiser, a South Carolina man killed in a boating accident on Lake Murray in 2019, is working with Congress to get a bill passed that would require people older than 16 to take a boating-safety course. Another family member, Shawn Kiser, also lost a leg in the crash.

Brown agrees.

“The earliest education that people can get to be safe on the water, the better off it will be all the way around in the long run,” he said. In areas where it is a vacation area, there is a lot of transient traffic. So, it needs to be that way here in the state of South Carolina without question.”

The U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary offers free inspections of boats and jet skis at seven different ramps across the state throughout the year, typically inspecting 25 to 30 a day before they hit the water.

Brown said boater-education courses should be the first step in preventing accidents and that getting your boats inspected regularly should be a top priority to prevent further damage. Some of the biggest issues authorities see are visual distress, outdated flares and recalled fire extinguishers.

The auxiliary offers classes every third Saturday at the Surfside Beach fire station. Anyone can sign up on town’s website or on the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources website.

“To take that that would actually help all of us, the active-duty coast guard they’ll help us auxiliary out and it’ll help the first responders that have to make it to them when they have incidents.“ Brown said.