Feb 13, 2014 6:20 PM by MELISSA CANONE
The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) Enforcement Division's Boating Safety Program is reporting a record low of 13 boating fatalities for Louisiana in 2013.
The previous low for boating fatalities was 19 in 1992 with a high of 79 in 1974, which was the first year boating incident statistics were recorded. Louisiana averaged 69 boating fatalities a year from 1974 to 1979, 52 a year from 1980-1989, 32 a year from 1990-1999, 37 a year from 2000 to 2009. Since 2010 Louisiana has averaged 25 boating fatalities a year including 30 in 2012, 36 in 2011 and 21 in 2010.
"While we are always striving for lower boating incidents and fatalities, we are happy to report this record low for boating fatalities for 2013," said Col. Jeff Mayne, head of the LDWF Enforcement Division. "It shows that some of our boating safety initiatives are working and that boaters are doing a great job of adhering to our safe boating regulations."
LDWF contributes the drop in boating fatalities to the mandatory boating education class, stricter driving or operating a vessel while under the influence (DWI) enforcement and introducing new regulations for wearing a personal flotation device (PFD).
The LDWF Boating Safety Program began instituting mandatory boating safety education in 2003 for anybody born after Jan. 1, 1988 who operates a vessel in excess of 10 horsepower. In 2010, LDWF worked with the state legislature to make the boating education course mandatory for anybody born after Jan. 1, 1984. Since 2003 LDWF has certified over 50,000 boaters statewide.
"The mandatory boating education course has proven in other states and this one that over time we will have fewer boating crash incidents and fatalities," said Capt. Rachel Zechenelly, Louisiana's Boating Law Administrator. "We will eventually reach a point of saturation and every boater in the state will be boating education certified, which can only increase the safety of our waterways."
Studies have shown that states with a mandatory boating education program have fewer boating fatalities than states without one. States with a boating education program for more than 20 years had 3.67 fatalities per 100,000 registered boats, and states with no boating education program had 6.61 fatalities per 100,000 boats.
To take a free LDWF approved boating education course please visit www.wlf.louisiana.gov/boating/boatingcourses.
LDWF has upped their DWI enforcement on the water and have worked with the state legislature in the recent past to make DWI laws on the water the same as on the road.
Anyone cited for a DWI on the water or on the road will lose his or her driver's license and boating privileges for the specified time ordered by the judge in the case. Also, each offense of operating a vehicle or vessel while intoxicated counts toward the total number of DWI crimes whether they happened on the water or road. In Louisiana a DWI can be issued to anyone operating a moving vessel or vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration of .08 or higher and .02 for anyone under 21 years of age.
LDWF has also introduced a couple of new PFD regulations. In 2007, LDWF made it mandatory for all on board a recreational vessel less than 16 feet in length that is steered by a hand tiller outboard motor while underway to wear a PFD. In 2009, LDWF required anyone 16 years of age or younger to wear a PFD while onboard a vessel that is less than 26 feet in length. The law previously stated that anyone under 12 was required to wear a PFD.
Also in 2007, LDWF made it mandatory for an operator of any recreational vessel less than 26 feet in length that already have an existing engine cut-off switch and equipped with a hand tiller outboard motor to use an engine cut-off switch. The engine cut-off switches on these types of boats have to be attached to the operator via a lanyard.