Contact: Senior Cpl. Carl Winckoski, Delaware Division of Fish & Wildlife Enforcement, 302-739- 9913, or Joanna Wilson, Public Affairs, 302-739-9902.
Senator Carper, Secretary O’Mara kick off
National Safe Boating Week May 17-23 in Lewes
DNREC Boating Safety Office urges good safety practices
DOVER (May 19, 2014) – With the 2014 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 Fish and Wildlife Enforcement agents joined U.S. Senator Tom Carper, State Rep. Harvey Kenton, State Rep. Stephen Smyk, DNREC Secretary Collin O’Mara, Lt. Commander Randy Preston of the U.S. Coast Guard’s Lewes Marine Safety Detachment, USCG Auxiliary Vice Commander Tom Mann, Warren Huff of the Lewes USCG Auxiliary, USCG officers and Auxiliary volunteer boating safety instructors, and volunteer boating safety instructors with the U.S. Power Squadron’s Nanticoke Sail & Power Squadron of Seaford, to officially kick off National Boating Safety Week at the Lewes Public Boat Ramp.
“In Delaware, we are lucky to have so much natural beauty to enjoy, including the many scenic waterways,” said Senator Carper. “It’s imperative that we offer boating safety instruction so those that want to take advantage of these waterways can do so safely and correctly.”
“Understanding of boating safety is essential for having an enjoyable time out on Delaware’s scenic bays and coastal waterways,” said U.S. Senator Chris Coons. “National Safe Boating Week provides a reminder to everyone who loves being out on the water of what’s most important: the well-being of you and your fellow boaters. Whether crabbing in one of Delaware’s inland bays or fishing Brown Shoal, caution needs to be the number one factor on boaters’ minds.”
“Boating is a fun and relaxing way to spend a summer day, especially out on one of Delaware’ s beautiful waterways,” said U.S. Congressman John Carney. “It’s important that boaters know how to keep themselves and others safe when they head out onto the water. I’m looking forward to another fun and safe boating season.”
“Delaware’s waterways are among the First State’s top tourism destinations, and we can be proud that our state consistently has one of the lowest boating accident rates in the country,” said DNREC Secretary Collin O’Mara. “To keep these numbers low, we will continue our efforts in boating safety education, outreach, and – as needed – enforcement of our boating rules and regulations with due diligence.”
“Our boating safety education program plays a significant role in Delaware’s boating safety record,” said David Saveikis, Director of DNREC’s Division of Fish and Wildlife. “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 Robert Legates of the Division of Fish and Wildlife Enforcement Section also encouraged boaters to be aware and alert on the water. “Last year, we had no boating-related fatalities and eight reportable boating accidents. We’d like to see the number of accidents go down even more,” Legates said, noting that to date this year, Delaware has had no reported boating accidents and no fatalities. “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.”
Statistics support the vital role of wearing life jackets in keeping boaters safe. Nationally, 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 Senior Cpl. Carl Winckoski, Fish and Wildlife Enforcement. “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 wear them.”
“In addition, Delaware law requires that children age 12 and younger wear a life jacket while underway in any vessel on Delaware waters,” Winckoski 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 Winckoski, 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. Winckoski 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 in states where instructional data was available, 85 percent of reported fatalities occurred on boats where the operator had not received boating safety instruction.
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,” Winckoski said.
Delaware’s Office of Boating Safety and Education provides volunteer instructors to private and non-profit organizations, schools, clubs and the general public to educate boaters on skills and seamanship and to encourage them to be safe, knowledgeable and responsible. Courses cover the rules and regulations of Delaware’s waterways including appropriate speed limits, responsible boating skills and awareness, and how to distinguish navigational aids and water depths, as well as weather tips, information about basic engine mechanics and required and/or recommended safety equipment, what to do if an Enforcement agent stops your vessel and the dangers of boating under the influence.
Delaware’s 8-hour basic boating safety course, which fulfills Delaware’s mandatory boating safety class requirement, is offered in multiple locations statewide in one to four sessions. An online version of the course also is offered. Upon completing the course, boaters receive a boating safety certificate, which they should carry with them while boating as proof of course completion. In-classroom class costs range from $10 to $30.
For more information, including the boating safety class schedule, access to the online Delaware Boating Handbook and other boating information, please click Delaware Boating Safety, or contact Senior Cpl. Carl Winckoski at 302-739-9913 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Vol. 44, No. 164