SPRINGFIELD, IL – The Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) is reminding boaters to wear life jackets, stay alert and stay sober while on the water this spring and summer. The reminder comes ahead of the upcoming Memorial Day holiday weekend during National Safe Boating Week, May 22-28.
“Whether you’re on the water fishing, skiing or just enjoying the weather, keep safety in mind while boating,” said IDNR Director Marc Miller. “The Memorial Day weekend starts our busiest time of the year for boating and for boating accidents. Wear your personal floatation device, keep an eye on other boaters and never operate a boat while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.”
Statistics compiled by the IDNR Office of Law Enforcement show that there were 102 reportable boating accidents on Illinois waters in 2009 resulting in 71 injuries and 25 fatalities. Of the 25 people who died in Illinois boating accidents last year, 12 may have survived if they had worn a personal floatation device (PFD).
Illinois law requires that PFDs 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 PFD 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 (jet ski).
The theme of the National Safe Boating Council’s Safe Boating Week is “Wear It!” as a reminder to all boaters to wear a PFD.
“We can’t stress enough the lifesaving importance of wearing a life jacket while on the water,” said IDNR Chief of Law Enforcement Rafael Gutierrez. “The law requires that there be PFDs on your boat for everyone aboard. The PFDs are on board for a reason – so wear them.”
In addition to enforcing boat safety laws on Illinois waters, IDNR Conservation Police also focus on operating under the influence (OUI) violations. Last year, CPOs and other law enforcement agencies in Illinois made 215 arrests for OUI involving boat operators.
Illinois offers free boating safety courses for boaters of all ages (state law requires boating safety education for youth ages 12 to 17). Safety course schedules are available by phoning 1-800-832-2599 or by checking the IDNR web site at http://dnr.state.il.us. In 2009, reports indicated 85 percent of the watercraft involved in accidents were operated by people who had no formal boat safety education.
For boaters in central Illinois, the IDNR Conservation Police will provide free courtesy boat inspections on May 29 from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. at Gander Mountain, 2371 Chuckwagon Drive, Springfield. Among the items on the safety checklist are: serviceable U.S. Coast Guard-approved PFDs for each person; a type IV throwable cushion or ring; a fully-charged USCG-approved fire extinguisher; a sounding device such as a horn or whistle; battery strapped down and terminals covered to prevent sparking; valid registration and number displayed; proper bow and stern lights for night time operation; motor cut-off lanyard; and any other items necessary or recommended.