Illinois Conservation Police Officers remind boat operators to drive sober
Illinois Conservation Police Officers, CPOs, are reminding boat operators to always drive sober and to wear life jackets: life-saving reminders heading into the state’s busiest boating season.
Illinois joined in the observance of National Safe Boating Week, which was May 18-24.
National Safe Boating Week is observed each year during the week prior to the Memorial Day holiday weekend.
“Our Illinois Conservation Police step up water patrols throughout the summer months to remind boaters to stay safe and enjoy their time outdoors,” said Illinois Department of Natural Resources, IDNR, director Colleen Callahan.
“We remind boaters that wearing a life jacket can save their lives, and that it is against the law to drive or operate a boat while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.”
Statistics compiled by the IDNR Office of Law Enforcement show that 68 boating-related accidents occurred in Illinois in 2018, resulting in 34 injuries and 18 fatalities.
Annual boating accident statistics are compiled based on the federal fiscal year of Oct. 1 through Sept. 30.
CPOs in 2018 issued 1,045 citations and 3,753 warnings in enforcement of Illinois boating safety laws. CPOs made 124 arrests for boaters operating under the influence, OUI, in 2018.
IDNR statistics indicated that 16 of the 18 people who died in boating accidents last year may have survived if they had worn a life jacket or other personal flotation device, PFD. Four of the 18 boating-related fatalities involved alcohol or drug impairment.
Illinois law requires that properly-fitting U.S. Coast Guard-approved PFDs, life jackets or life vests, 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 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. Illinois law also requires persons of any age to wear a PFD while operating a personal watercraft or Jet Ski.
IDNR offers free boating safety courses that provide a review of boating laws and regulations, as well as instructions on safe and attentive operation of watercraft and encourages boaters of all ages to take a safety course.
Anyone born on or after Jan. 1, 1998, must pass a course and have a valid boating safety certificate to operate a motorboat (with over 10 horsepower).
The free safety courses, taught by volunteer instructors, are available throughout Illinois.
Schedules are available by checking the IDNR website’s boating information page at https://www.dnr.illinois.gov/safety/Pages/BoatingSafety.aspx.
For a fee, online boating safety courses also are available.
IDNR reported there were 245,621 registered boats in Illinois in 2018.