National Safe Boating Week Kicks Off in Delaware - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

National Safe Boating Week Kicks Off in Delaware

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LEWES, Del. - The annual "National Safe Boating Week" starts Saturday across the country, and Delaware marked the occasion with a ceremony and a constant reminder: always wear a life jacket.

"Last year in 2016 we did have one fatality and 32 boating accidents," says DNREC Deputy Secretary Kara Coats. "This year in 2017, we've had five boating accidents and tragically two fatalities in the last week."

Coats says in one of the deaths, the victim was not wearing a life jacket. 

According to U.S. Coast Guard statistics, in 2015, 76 percent of victims in deadly boating accidents died by drowning. Of those victims, 85 percent were not wearing a life jacket.

Delaware Fish & Wildlife Natural Resources Police Boating Safety Coordinator Lt. John McDerby says life jackets are crucial no matter how shallow the water may be due to the unpredictability of a boating accident.

"Somebody may be knocked unconscious or injured to the point that if they go overboard that they're unable to swim or assist themselves because of their injuries," he tells WBOC. "If you don't have that life jacket on, it's likely that unfortunately you're not going to survive the incident."

At Friday's kickoff, state officials also highlighted safe boating practices such as boating while sober, paying attention to all other boaters, and boating at a safe speed. Secretary Coats says Delaware's laws help keep boating accident and death statistics low in the first state.

"Since 1994, Delaware has required that all persons born after 1978 take a boating safety class before they helm a vessel," she says. "Last year there were over 2200 students that completed these courses."

The state offers the courses both online and in the classroom and most are taught by members of the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary and U.S. Power Squadrons. Additionally, Delaware requires that all boats have life jackets on board and everyone under the age of 12 wear a life jacket when they're offshore. Coats says since that law was enacted in 1991, no one under the age of 13 has died on Delaware's waters. 

As the busy summer season starts, state officials ask that everyone use caution on the water. 

"The bottom line is that we need everyone on the waterways to be alert, use common sense, and avoid actions that will put themselves, their passengers, or other boaters at risk," says Delaware Fish & Wildlife Natural Resources Police Chief Drew Aydelotte. "We definitely appreciate the majority of Delaware's boaters that work with us to ensure public safety."

For more on Delaware's boat safety rules and suggestions, click here. 

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