Contact: Sgt. Greg Rhodes, Fish & Wildlife Enforcement/Delaware Office of Boating Safety and Education, 302-739- 9913 or 302-542-6102, or Joanna Wilson, Public Affairs, 302-739-9902.
For National Safe Boating Week, May 18-24, DNREC's
Boating Safety Office urges good safety practices
DOVER (May 20, 2013) – With the 2013 summer season making its debut this weekend and plenty of good weather ahead, many boaters will be heading out on the water. As they do, the DNREC Office of Boating Safety and Education encourages them to remember to practice safe boating, not just over Memorial Day weekend – but throughout the year.
This afternoon, DNREC Division of Fish and Wildlife officials and Enforcement agents joined U.S. Coast Guard officers and Coast Guard Auxiliary volunteers to officially kick off National Boating Safety Week at the Lewes Public Boat Ramp.
“Delaware consistently has one of the lowest accident rates in the country, and that’s something we can be very proud of today,” said David Saveikis, Director of DNREC’s Division of Fish and Wildlife. “Our boating safety education program plays a significant role in that record. As a life-long boater myself, I encourage boaters to learn the boating ‘rules of the road’ and to practice safe boating each and every time they head out to enjoy our beautiful waterways.”
While stressing the importance of boating education, Chief James Graybeal of the Division of Fish and Wildlife Enforcement Section also encouraged boaters to be aware and alert on the water. “Last year, we had two boating-related fatalities and 13 reportable boating accidents. We’d like to see those numbers go down,” Graybeal said. “Though some accidents are unavoidable, we need everyone on our waterways to be alert, use common sense and avoid actions that will put themselves, their passengers and other boaters at risk.”
To date this year, Delaware has had no reported boating accidents and no fatalities. By this time last year, four boating accidents had been reported, with two fatalities. In both cases, the victims were not wearing life jackets, Graybeal noted – a simple precaution that might have prevented tragedy.
Statistics support the vital role of wearing life jackets in keeping boaters safe. Approximately 500 people drown each year from recreational boating accidents. According to U.S. Coast Guard data from 2012, nearly three-quarters of all boating fatalities nationwide were drowning victims – and more than 80 percent of them were not wearing life jackets.
“Boating accidents can happen very fast – and there’s no time to reach for a stowed life jacket and put it on. Like seatbelts in automobiles, we know without question that life jackets save lives,” said Sgt. Gregory Rhodes, boating education specialist with the Office of Boating Safety and Education. “Today’s life jackets are also more effective, more comfortable and even more fashionable than in the past, so there’s simply no reason not to use them.”
“In addition, Delaware law requires that children age 12 and younger wear a life jacket while underway in any vessel on Delaware waters,” Rhodes said. “Though life jackets are not legally required for adults, they should also wear them, especially anyone with limited swimming skills.”
Recent statistics from the Coast Guard show the top five primary contributing factors for boating accidents are operator inattention, improper lookout, operator inexperience, excessive speed, and mechanical failure. Alcohol use is the leading contributing factor in fatal boating accidents and was listed as the leading factor in 17 percent of the 651 boating-related fatalities reported nationwide in 2012.
“Drinking while boating is a choice. The best way to minimize the risk of an accident is to make the wise choice – don’t drink and boat,” said Sgt. Rhodes, noting that boaters should plan ahead to have a non-drinking designated boat operator aboard if alcohol is being consumed.
While it is not illegal for recreational boat operators to consume alcohol, the same blood alcohol limit used to measure intoxication in automobile drivers applies to boat operators: 0.08 or above is legally intoxicated. Sgt. Rhodes also noted that boat operators found to be at or over the limit face fines and potential jail time, as well as putting themselves and their passengers at risk.
Taking a boating safety course can also improve your skills and reduce the chances of an accident. Coast Guard statistics show that where instructional data was available, 85 percent of reported fatalities occurred on boats where the operator had not received boating safety instruction.
Delaware’s Office of Boating Safety provides volunteer instructors to private and non-profit organizations, schools, clubs and to the public to educate boaters on skills and seamanship and to encourage them to be safe, knowledgeable and responsible. Courses are offered free of charge, including materials and educational aids.
Under Delaware law, all persons born on or after Jan. 1, 1978 must successfully complete a boating safety course in order to operate a boat in Delaware waters, including personal watercraft. “We recommend that everyone who is going to operate a boat in Delaware waters take a safety course first, regardless of their age,” Sgt. Rhodes said.
For more information on Delaware’s boating safety education courses, please visit www.fw.delaware.gov/Boating/BoatingSafety.htm or contact Sgt. Greg Rhodes at 302-739-9913 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Vol. 43, No. 209