MOREHEAD CITY, N.C. (WNCT) – Many people are getting an early start this holiday week, out on their boats. State wildlife commission officers will keep their eyes on the water, watching for people not following the law.

State wildlife enforcement officer Kayla Herrera plans to see plenty of boats for the 4th of July. She says there have been more boats out this year compared to 2019.

She would normally check for life jackets and fire extinguishers to make sure vessels have the safety equipment needed. However, because of COVID-19 Herrera and other officers won’t be able to offer pre-launch safety inspections at boat ramps.

But the coronavirus pandemic, won’t stop officers from pulling people over for either being suspected of or violating the law.

“If you do get stopped, we’re still going to check for the same thing,” said Herrera.

The wildlife enforcement officer is asking people to put safety first this holiday weekend. Last year, 13 people died in boating accidents in N.C. Alcohol was a contributing factor in three of the incidents. In nine of them, people were not wearing life vests.

“84 percent of people who drowned in recreational boating accidents were not wearing their life vests,” said Herrera.

Before heading out, it is recommended you check your equipment is working like your fire extinguishers, navigational lights, and life jackets.

Wildlife commission officers are also spreading the word about staying sober while boating. It’s part of a national campaign called Operation Dry Water. Officers will conduct sobriety checkpoints and teach people about the dangers of operating a boat on alcohol or drugs.