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Attorneys Remind Boaters: Life Jackets Can Save Lives in Illinois Boating Accidents

Summer may be nearing its end, but that has not halted the increasing number of boating accidents in Illinois. As our Chicago boating accident attorneys reported late last month, boating accidents have been on the rise. This is particularly true in Illinois, where alcohol related boating accidents are the second highest in the nation, and budget cuts have curtailed boating law enforcement efforts. In another recent post, we reported on the tragic death of a 10-year-old Illinois boy who died in a boating accident. Now, more statistics by the National Safe Boating Council (NSBC) have been published. These statistics, originally from the U.S. Coast Guard, provide an increased depth of knowledge as to the scope of boating accidents and fatalities.

In 2011, there were approximately 4,600 recreational boating accidents in the United States, involving 758 deaths and 3,081 injuries. These accidents caused nearly $52 million of damage to property. Interestingly, Illinois is ranked in seventh place for states with the most boating accident fatalities, but does not make the top ten in the sheer amount of accidents. Clearly, there are factors at play that have caused Illinois to have a disproportionately high fatality rate in relation to the accident rate.

The fact that Illinois ranks second in alcohol related boating accidents is one such factor. As our Illinois boating accident lawyers discussed, not only is law enforcement hampered by a shrinking budget, but alcohol consumption when boating can present unique challenges. The legal driving BAC is the same as the legal boating BAC, .08, but the exposure to sun and increased likelihood of dehydration associated with boating can strengthen the effects of alcohol. Combined with the fact that drinking is much more widespread in boating than it safely should be, the prevalence of accidents is put in context.

However, the NSBC cites yet another crucial factor that we overlooked, as do many boaters. That factor is the use of life jackets. According to the NSBC, 84 percent of those who drowned in recreational boating accidents were not wearing a life jacket. This is an incredibly high percentage, and it indicates the life-saving power that life jackets can have. As the executive director of the NSBC said, “no matter where you are boating…wearing a life jacket can help save many lives.”

Fortunately, the NSBC provided some guidelines and tips to ensure proper life jacket use. Their first piece of advice is to always wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket. The life jacket should fit snugly, which means that it is not proper to let a child wear an adult size life jacket. Sometimes people may try to save money by purchasing life jackets that their children will “grow into,” but they are jeopardizing their children’s safety in the process. Surely, a child’s safety is worth more than the cost of a child-sized life jacket. Further, the law requires that children under 13-years-old on recreational vessels wear a Coast Guard-approved life jacket when they are on deck.

Even though there is only about a month or so left of summer, it is imperative that boating safety laws be adhered to year round. Life jackets are the first line of defense, and are proven life-saving equipment. Our Chicago boating accident lawyers understand the legal issues involved in boating accidents and are willing to offer further information and legal assistance should you or a loved one suffer from serious personal injuries in a boat accident.