SPRINGFIELD — Illinois Conservation Police officers are reminding boat operators and passengers to wear life jackets and stay sober while on the water this boating season.
Statistics compiled by the IDNR Office of Law Enforcement show that there were 77 boating-related accidents on Illinois waters in 2014 resulting in 54 injuries and 20 fatalities.
During the last five years, Illinois had an annual average of 95 boating accidents resulting in 67 injuries and 19 fatalities. Illinois Conservation Police officers in 2014 made 159 arrests for boaters operating under the influence, a 38 percent increase in OUI arrests from 2013.
IDNR statistics indicate six of the 20 boating-related fatalities in Illinois last year involved alcohol or drug impairment, while 14 of those who died in boating accidents may have survived if they had worn a life jacket or other personal flotation device.
Illinois law requires that PFDs, such as 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.
Among the primary causes of boating accidents are alcohol use and careless/reckless operation. State law requires boating safety education for persons ages 12 to 17, and IDNR encourages boaters of all ages to take a safety course.
Visit dnr.illinois.gov/safety/Pages/BoatingSafety.aspx for more information.