Contact: Sgt. Greg Rhodes, Fish & Wildlife Enforcement, 302-739- 9913 or 302-542-6102, or Joanna Wilson, DNREC Public Affairs, 302-739-9902.
For National Safe Boating Week (May 19-25), DNREC's
Boating Safety Office urges good safety practices
DOVER (May 19, 2012) – With the 2012 summer season making its debut next 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 encourages them to remember to practice safe boating, not just over Memorial Day weekend – but throughout the year.
“Delaware consistently has one of the lowest boating accident rates in the country. Last year, we had two boating-related fatalities and 11 reportable boating accidents. We’d like to see those numbers go down,” said Sgt. Greg Rhodes, the Boating Safety Office’s boating education specialist. “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 in Delaware, four boating accidents have been reported, with two fatalities. In both cases, the victims were not wearing life jackets, Sgt. Rhodes noted – a simple precaution that might have prevented tragedy.
Statistics support the vital role of wearing life jackets in keeping boaters safe. According to U.S. Coast Guard data, nearly three-quarters of all boating fatalities nationwide in 2011 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,” Sgt. Rhodes said. “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,” he 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 careless/reckless operation, operator inattention, no proper lookout, operator inexperience and passenger/skier behavior. Alcohol use is the leading contributing factor in fatal boating accidents and was listed as the leading factor in 16 percent of the 758 boating-related fatalities reported nationwide in 2011.
“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.
More Facts about Boating Safety
National Safe Boating Week May 19-25
Currently, more than 70 million Americans enjoy boating, with nearly 13 million recreational vessels registered in the United States.
In 2011, according to U.S. Coast Guard statistics, the number of boating accidents and injuries reported nationwide decreased slightly, with 4,588 accidents and 3,081 injuries, compared to 4,664 accidents and 3,153 injuries in 2010. Property damage increased from $35.5 million to approximately $52 million.
In 2011, 758 people died on our nation’s waterways, an increase from 672 in 2010. Delaware had only two fatalities and 11 reportable boating accidents, down from 18 accidents in 2010.
Education is the key to the state’s reputation for safe boating. Since 1994, Delaware has required all persons born on or after Jan. 1, 1978 to take a boating safety class before they can operate a boat on Delaware waters. More than 60 classes in basic and advanced boating safety were offered in 2011.
Since 1991, when the state’s child personal floatation device law went into effect, requiring all children 12 years old or younger to wear a life jacket while under way in a vessel on Delaware waters, not a single child has died as a result of drowning in a boating accident.
In 1973, there were 1,754 boating fatalities nationwide. In 2005, 697 fatalities occurred with 12,942,414 registered boats, which equals to 5.4 fatalities per 100,000 registered boats.
Despite the dramatic increase in boating participation, boating-related fatalities have decreased through the years – a change directly attributable to recreational boating safety programs. Coast Guard statistics show that 85 percent of boating accidents involved boat operators who had not received boating safety instruction.
Boating safety programs, made possible through the Federal Boating Act of 1971 and the creation of the Wallop-Breaux Trust Fund in 1984, are estimated to have saved more than 23,000 lives since 1971.
Currently, 44 of the 50 states have a boating safety education requirement in place. Statistics show that the states with the longest history of boating education requirements also have the lowest average fatality rates in the country; the six states without the requirement have triple their fatality rates. Delaware’s Office of Boating Safety was created in 1972, and since that time the state continues to have one of the lowest boating accident rates in the country.
“Boat Smart, Boat Safe and Wear It!” While enjoying Delaware’s beautiful natural resources, DNREC’s Boating Safety Office urges citizens to stay sober behind the helm, wear your life jacket and take a boating safety education course to ensure the safety of you and your family.
Vol. 42, No. 189