Take steps to have fun safely this boating season

Experts are reminding all boaters to brush up on their safety skills as they prepare for the upcoming boating season. Paul Valade/Daily Herald Media Group

Te start of the boating season is upon us. Boating enthusiasts are enjoying warm, sunny days on the Chain O’ Lakes and other Northern Illinois waterways.

But before kicking off another summer of fishing, swimming and water skiing, we must remember to take steps to stay safe.

To that end, we remind boaters to brush up on their boating safety skills and prepare for the season.

“We’re committed to teaching boaters that the best boating experience is a safe day on the water,” said Peg Phillips, executive director of the nonprofit National Safe Boating Council.

Locally, there were at least two instances last summer when a fun time on the water took a terrible turn.

In June, a man operating a jet ski on the Fox River near McHenry was thrown from the watercraft when a boat ran into him. The jet skier was wearing a life jacket and suffered non-life-threatening injuries. The boater that hit him fled the scene.

We’re committed to teaching boaters that the best boating experience is a safe day on the water.”

—  Peg Phillips, executive director of the nonprofit National Safe Boating Council

Then in August, a 65-year-old Antioch woman suffered minor injuries when the boat she was a passenger on struck a pier and went partially airborne on Lake Marie near Antioch. Authorities say the 41-year-old Wyoming woman who was driving at the time of the crash had no boating experience.

In 2021, there were 93 reportable boating accidents on Illinois waters, according to statistics compiled by the Illinois Conservation Police. Those accidents resulted in 28 injuries and 16 fatalities.

U.S. Coast Guard statistics show that drowning was the reported cause of death in four out of every five recreational boating fatalities in 2021. And 83% of the people who drowned were not wearing life jackets.

Officials with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources stress that everyone – from motorboat riders to kayakers and paddle boarders – must wear a life jacket while on the water.

They also remind people to never boat under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Having a few beers on a hot day is fine, but never try to pilot a boat while intoxicated. Designate a sober skipper.

Other tips from the National Safe Boating Council include:

• Take a boating safety course.

• Check equipment and make sure your vessel has all the essential equipment in working condition.

• Watch the weather. Check the forecast before departing and during the excursion.

• Know what’s going on around you at all times.

• Know where you’re going and travel at safe speeds.

To see other tips, visit safeboatingcampaign.com.

It was a long winter. Go out and enjoy the beautiful lakes and rivers in the suburbs. Just have the awareness and common sense to have fun safely.

The Daily Herald