Authorities urge people to boat safely as summer approaches

Photo File | Photo via United States Coast Guard

Illinois Conservation Police are urging residents to wear life jackets and avoid driving boats under the influence ahead of the summer season.

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) released a statement during National Safe Boating Week, which runs May 21-27, reminding people to practice safe boating ahead of the summer season of boating. navigation.

IDNR Conservation Police are urging people on the water to wear life jackets and only operate boats when sober.

“The ‘Wear it!’ message is a simple, easy-to-understand message,” said Illinois Conservation Police Lt. Curt Lewis.

“Wearing a lifejacket is not just a reminder for everyone on a powerboat; it’s also important for anyone who enjoys paddle sports, such as kayaks, canoes and stand-up paddleboards.

93 boating accidents were reported in Illinois waters last year, resulting in 28 injuries and 16 deaths, according to annual statistics from the Conservation Police.

Four of those deaths involved alcohol or drug impairment, and the other 12 who died were not wearing life jackets.

81 nautical accidents caused 21 deaths and 36 injuries in 2020 and 72 accidents caused 14 deaths and 42 injuries in 2019.

Conservation officials said most accidents happen between noon and 6 p.m. on weekends between June and August, when conditions are favorable for boating.

Most accidents involve operators between the ages of 20 and 40 who have more than 100 hours of boating experience but little or no education in boating safety, and they usually involve open motor boats acting recklessly. , according to reports.

Conservation Police officers will strictly enforce the laws regarding driving a boat under the influence as part of a boating safety enforcement effort.

Lewis said driving a boat under the influence can be more dangerous than driving a motor vehicle under the influence because waterways don’t have lane markers and most boats don’t have seatbelt.

65 boaters were arrested last year for driving under the influence, a 36% drop from 2020.

State law requires that personal flotation devices (PFDs) be available for every person on a boat, and that everyone wear a PFD when operating a personal watercraft or jet ski.

Starting this month, no one can operate a watercraft unless anyone under the age of 13 on deck or in an open watercraft is wearing an approved, properly sized PFD.

This requirement does not apply to persons who are inside a cabin or below the upper deck of a craft, on an anchored craft that is a platform for swimming or diving, or on board a charter boat “passenger for hire” with a licensed captain.

Officials say wearing an appropriately sized U.S. Coast Guard-approved PFD is the most proactive measure boaters can take to keep themselves safe.

IDNR offers free boating safety courses that teach safe watercraft operation and provide a review of boating laws and regulations.

Anyone born on or after January 1, 1998 must pass a course and hold a valid boating safety certificate to operate a motorboat over 10 horsepower.

People between the ages of 12 and 17 are also required by law to receive boating safety training to operate a motorboat.

“Wearing a life jacket can save your life, and staying sober while operating a boat isn’t just common sense, it’s the law,” Lewis said.

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