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Safe boating tips

Advice from an expert on holiday boating safety

  • Boaters gather in the "Play Pen" on Lake Michigan near Oak Street Beach Sunday, July 31, 2011.
Boaters gather in the "Play Pen" on Lake Michigan near Oak Street… (Michael Tercha/Chicago…)
June 27, 2012|Harry Huggins | For RedEye

Illinois ranked seventh in the nation in number of boating fatalities in 2011, according to the U.S. Coast Guard. Rachel Johnson, communications director at the National Safe Boating Council, has some tips to avoid adding to that number.

"Our first and main tip is to choose to wear a lifejacket at all times while boating," Johnson said. According to her, 70 percent of all fatal boating accidents were due to drowning, and of those, 84 percent were reported as not wearing a life jacket.

Another safety concern, especially for Independence Day celebrators, is boating under the influence. Alcohol was the leading factor in 16 percent of boating deaths in 2011, according to the National Safe Boating Council. Johnson would advise people to abstain from alcohol and drugs while on the water.

"It's the same argument as driving under the influence," Johnson said. "It inhibits your ability to process things as quickly; your reaction time is slower."

In more general terms, Johnson said she believes boaters need to have awareness of their accountability.

"When someone is going out on the water," Johnson said, "it is their responsibility to be attentive, to have a proper lookout, to make sure they're experience boaters. Take a safe boating course, don't speed excessively in your boat and make sure everything on it is in working order."

For boat owners looking to make sure their vessel is still ship-shape, the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary provides free inspections by signing up at any local marina or at their website here. More information on boat safety can be found at the Safe Boating Council's website here.

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