SPRINGFIELD, IL – Illinois Conservation Police (CPOs) are gearing up to help ensure the public’s safety on Illinois waterways throughout the year as part of the observance of National Safe Boating Week, May 18-24. As in year’s past, CPOs are asking boaters to ‘Wear It!’ while boating this season.
The ‘Wear It!’ message is a simple, straightforward and easy message to understand. Everyone on board a boat should wear a life jacket from the time they get on until the time they get off the vessel. It could literally save their life.
“Fastening a flotation device takes just seconds, but that action can save the rest of your life. Life jackets aboard a boat are only effective if they are worn,” said Illinois Conservation Police Chief Rafael Gutierrez.
Statistics compiled by the IDNR Office of Law Enforcement show that there were 101 boating-related accidents on Illinois waters, resulting in 17 deaths and 77 injuries in 2012. Alcohol use was a contributing factor in 13 of the accidents and five of the fatalities.
Those totals compare with 103 reportable boating accidents in 2011, resulting in 70 injuries and 21 fatalities.
Illinois Conservation Police are responsible for patrolling public waters of the state and will strictly enforce laws regarding operating under the influence (OUI) for boat operators.
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.
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. For more information on the national safe boating campaign, go to the website at http://www.safeboatingcampaign.com