IDNR Reminds Boaters and Anglers to Practice Safety as Weather Warms in Illinois

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Public urged to take boating safety class before heading out on the water

SPRINGFIELD –Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) is urging boaters and anglers to be safe while on the water this spring and summer.  The Agency is also reminding boaters about the benefits to signing up for a boating safety class offered through the IDNR. 

“Safety education courses are a key to the Illinois’ boating safety effort.  Nationwide, nearly 90 percent of all reported fatalities on boats involved boat operators who had not received boating safety instruction,” said IDNR Acting Director Sam Flood.

Statistics compiled by the IDNR Office of Law Enforcement show that 13 people died and 57 were injured in boating-related accidents on Illinois waters in 2007.  That is down slightly from 2006 when there were 17 fatalities and 66 injuries in boating-related accidents.

Of the 13 fatalities in 2007, 10 may have survived had Personal Flotation Devices (PDF’s) been worn.

The leading type of accidents involving fatalities were collisions with a fixed object and flooding/swamping of a vessel.  As is usually the case, most fatalities occurred on clear, sunny days with mild winds and good visibility.  Alcohol use along with operator inattention or carelessness remains a major cause of fatalities.

In 2007, operators between the ages of 20 and 59 were involved in 74% boating accidents and 38% of those involved at least one fatality.

According to a 2006 study by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators, those states that have the longest history of boating education requirements also have the lowest average fatality rates of all the states.

Illinois has the fourth longest history of boating education requirements in the U.S. at 29 years.  Four other states have had boating education requirements in place for more than 20 years – New York, with 47 years; Michigan, with 40 years; Minnesota with 32 years; and North Dakota with 22 years. 

“While specific circumstances are different, nearly every boating accident investigation we do has a common denominator…that the accident could have been avoided had safety been the focus,” said IDNR Chief of Law enforcement Rafael Gutierrez.

People between 12-18 years of age who operate a motorized watercraft by themselves are required by law to possess a boating safety certificate.  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.  And all persons, regardless of age, are required to wear a life jacket while operating a personal watercraft or jet ski.

Safety course schedules are available on the IDNR web site at www.dnr.state.il.us/SAFETY/boat.htm.   Illinois also offers an online boat safety education course through the IDNR web site.  There is a $15 fee charged for the online course.