SPRINGFIELD, IL – With spring underway, Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) Acting Director Sam Flood today urged individuals planning to spend time out on the water to participate in one of the department’s free boating safety education courses. The free courses provide an important and potentially life-saving review of boating laws and regulations and instruction on safe and attentive boating.
“One of the main responsibilities of the IDNR is to provide quality outdoor recreation for residents and visitors of Illinois; but just as important is our commitment to safe recreation,” said Dir. Flood. “I encourage anyone planning to be out on the water this season, whether you’re a fisherman or a recreational boater, to enroll themselves and their children in one of our boating safety courses. The courses are free, taught by skilled instructors, and could potentially save a life.”
Safety education courses are a key to the state’s boating safety effort. Nationwide, nearly 90 percent of all reported fatalities on boats involved boat operators who had not received boating safety instruction.
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.
Statistics compiled by the IDNR Office of Law Enforcement show that 17 people died and 66 other people were injured in boating-related accidents on Illinois waters in 2006. There were a total of 78 boating accidents involving 118 watercraft last year.
In 2005, there were 16 fatalities and 100 others who were injured in 115 boating accidents involving 152 vessels.
Accident reports indicate that of the 17 people who died in Illinois boating accidents in 2006, 11 may have survived had they been wearing a life jacket. In those fatal accidents, all 17 people who died were on boats in which the boat operators either had not taken or it was not known whether they had taken a formal boat safety education course.
Among the primary causes of boating accidents are careless or reckless operation, operator inattention, equipment failure, hazardous water conditions and alcohol use.
“It’s important that individuals are aware of the boating laws of this state before heading out on the waters. The safe boating courses offered through the department provide a good overview of the boating laws and regulations and provide tips on safe boating,” said Capt. Greg Hunter of the IDNR Conservation Police, who serves as the state boating law administrator. “The more awareness we can build about the importance of taking a boating course, and simple tips such as remembering to always wear a life jacket, the more dangerous situations can be avoided.”
Safety course schedules are available by phoning (800) 832-2599 or by checking the IDNR web site at http://www.dnr.state.il.us. Illinois also offers an online boat safety education course through the IDNR web site at http://dnr.state.il.us. There is a $15 fee charged for the online course.
National Safe Boating Week is observed each year just before the Memorial Day holiday. This year’s National Safe Boating Week observance is May 19-25.