Memorial Day holiday means first big boating weekend in Illinois

This past week is considered National Safe Boating Week, and with the first big boating weekends of the year being Memorial Day weekend, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources wants to remind boaters wants to implement a few reminders. Tim Schweizer with the Illinois DNR says there are two main tips those on the water should remember: “Once you’re on the water, our reminders are pretty clear,” Schweizer said. “If you’re the boat operator – if you’re the driver, just like when you’re driving your car, you need to be sober. There’s an offense, not unlike DUI on the road, we call it OUI on the water: Operating Under the Influence and you can be arrested and put in jail if you’re a drunk boater. It’s not illegal to have a beer on the boat, but it is illegal to be drunk on a boat if you’re the driver.” No person under the age of 10 may operate a motorboat – and those between 10 and 12 years of age can only operate one under a parent’s direct control. Persons at between the ages of 12 and 18 can only operate a boat if they pocess a valid Boating Education Certificate issued by the Illinois DNR. Also, “they don’t call them life jackets for nothing,” Schweizer added. “Bring your life jacket, personal floatation device, whatever you call it: life vest, life jacket… Statistics show, unfortunately we do have fatalities every year in Illinois which people die because of a boat accident (or) involved in a boat accident….and in almost all of those fatalities, the individuals involved were not wearing a life jacket.”  Nationally, 80% of boating deaths are due to drowning and 83% of victims are those not wearing a life jacket. Two thirds of drowning victims are those who are considered good swimmers. Instructor-led and online self-study courses are available by visiting the Illinois Department of Natural Resources website.