SPRINGFIELD – For the third consecutive year, residents and visitors enjoyed a fatality-free Memorial Day Holiday weekend on public waters in Illinois. The Memorial Day holiday weekend is considered the unofficial start to summer, and the official start of the boating season throughout the country.
The last Memorial Day weekend fatality in Illinois happened in 2006 when two deaths occurred on Illinois public waters, one in Kendall County, the other in Sangamon County.
“Three straight years without a fatality over Memorial Day weekend is great news. I hope it becomes an annual message to share,” said IDNR Director Marc Miller. “I want to commend our Conservation Police for their daily efforts to keep people safe and thank the public for largely acting responsibly on the water this past weekend.”
Over the three-day holiday weekend, the Illinois Conservation Police issued 806 citations and more than 1,100 warnings to boaters. Other detailed enforcement statistics are below.
• TOTAL OPERATING UNDER THE INFLUENCE - 19
• TOTAL DRIVING UNDER THE INFLUENCE - 11
• TOTAL BOAT ACCIDENTS - 2
• TOTAL DRUG ARRESTS - 29
• TOTAL WARRANT ARRESTS - 13
The 2008 Memorial Day weekend saw Conservation Police issue 566 citations for various violations including 12 instances of Operating Under the Influence (OUI) and 10 instances of Driving Under the Influence (DUI). CPOs also arrested 33 people for various offenses and issued 843 written warnings to the public.
“When people play it safe and practice safety on the water it makes our jobs a lot easier. I want to encourage the public to always wear a life jacket and never drink while operating a boat…and to stay sober when driving a vehicle,” said Illinois Conservation Police Chief Gutierrez.
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 (47 years), Michigan (40 years), Minnesota (32 years) and North Dakota (22 years).
People between 12 and 18 years of age who operate a motorized watercraft by themselves are required by Illinois 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.