As the summer boating season approaches, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources Conservation Police are reminding the public to “Wear It!” in conjunction with the North American Safe Boating Campaign’s National Safe Boating week, May 19-25.
“The ‘Wear It!’ message is a simple, straightforward and easy message to understand. Everyone on board a boat should wear their life jacket from the time they get on until the time they get off the vessel. It could literally save your life,” said Illinois Conservation Police Chief Rafael Gutierrez.
Statistics compiled by the IDNR Office of Law Enforcement show that there were 103 reportable boating accidents in 2011, resulting in 70 injuries and 21 fatalities. Those totals compare with 102 reportable boating accidents on Illinois waters in 2010, resulting in 73 injuries and 16 fatalities. There were 102 reportable boating accidents on Illinois waters in 2009, resulting in 71 injuries and 25 fatalities.
Illinois Conservation Police are responsible for patrolling public waters of the state and will be on the water this boating season checking for sobriety by boat operators and compliance with boating laws in Illinois.
Illinois law requires that personal floatation devices (PFDs) – life jackets or life vests – be available for each person aboard a boat or other watercraft. State law also requires that anyone under the age of 13 must wear a life jacket while aboard any watercraft under 26 feet in length at all times the boat is underway, unless they are below deck in an enclosed cabin or operating on private property. Illinois law also requires persons of any age to wear a PFD while operating a personal watercraft or jet ski.
As part of the Illinois Conservation Police boating safety enforcement effort, officers also strictly enforce laws regarding operating under the influence (OUI) for boat operators.
“Operating a boat under the influence is just as risky as operating a motor vehicle. If you are operating a boat, be smart and don’t drink,” added Chief Gutierrez.
Among the primary causes of boating accidents are operator inattention, alcohol use, careless/reckless operation, and operator inexperience. The IDNR offers free boating safety courses providing a review of boating laws and regulations and instruction on safe and attentive operation of watercraft. State law requires boating safety education for persons ages 12 to 17 and encourages boaters of all ages to take a safety course. Safety courses, which are taught by volunteer instructors, are available throughout Illinois and schedules are available by calling 1-800/832-2599 or by checking the links on the IDNR website’s boating information page at http://www.dnr.illinois.gov/safety/Pages/BoatingSafety.aspx. Online boat safety courses are also available for a fee.
National Safe Boating Week is observed each year during the week leading up to the Memorial Day holiday. This year’s National Safe Boating Week observance is May 19-25 with the theme “Wear It!” to remind boaters of the importance of wearing life jackets. For more information on the national safe boating campaign, go to the website at http://www.safeboatingcampaign.com.