La. boating fatalities on the rise; officials urge use of life jackets, other safety measures
Boating safety has become a key area of concern to officials with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) due to a recent uptick in the number of deaths caused by boating incidents in Louisiana's waterways.
LDWF issued a Wednesday (March 10) news release regarding the troubling trend, stating, "The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Enforcement Division is once again reminding all boaters to practice safe boating as we approach the spring and summer boating season."
The release mentioned two recent boating fatalities that occurred within the past week. These two deaths bring the number of Louisiana boating fatalities in 2021 to seven.
LDWF pointed out that at this time in 2020, there were only two recreational boating fatalities.
“We haven’t even gotten into the prime boating season in Louisiana yet and we are seeing fatalities climb at an alarming pace,” said Col. Chad Hebert, the head of the LDWF Enforcement Division. “We are urging boaters to please adhere to all safe boating laws and practices."
On Feb. 28 a person fell off of a personal watercraft without wearing a personal flotation device (PFD) and drowned in Vermilion Parish. Then on March 6, a boat with five people on board struck a railroad bridge in Lake Pontchartrain, near New Orleans, that resulted in one fatality and four people being treated for serious injuries at an area hospital.
“A life jacket is the life- saving equipment on a boat. Please, please use it,” said LDWF Secretary Jack Montoucet. “We want more people enjoying the water, but there are safety rules that are important to follow.”
The LDWF Enforcement Division encourages everyone to wear PFDs (commonly called life jackets) and have a sober operator while on the water. They also recommend that all boaters take LDWF’s boating education course.
Officials say the law requires that anyone 16 years old and younger must wear a U.S. Coast Guard approved and properly fitting PFD while underway on a vessel under 26 feet in length. In addition to this, everyone on a vessel less than 16 feet in length, propelled by a hand tiller motor, must wear a PFD while underway. There must also be a PFD for each person on board a vessel and anyone riding on a personal watercraft must wear a PFD.
Officials also note that operating or driving a vessel in Louisiana while intoxicated has the same penalties as operating a vehicle. A DWI on the water can be issued to anyone operating a moving vessel while impaired.
In its news release LDWF said that boaters are encouraged to take the LDWF-approved safe boating course. It is mandatory for anyone born after Jan.1, 1984, to operate a motorboat over 10 horsepower. LDWF certified over 9,610 boaters in 2020.
To register for the course, visit www.wlf.louisiana.gov/page/boater-education.
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