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Increase in boating-related carnage underscores need for education

Boaters enjoy a calm day at the popular hangout called the Sandbar on Lake Havasu.

News item: The boating fatality rate, a measure of the number of deaths versus the number of registered recreational boats, increased modestly to 5.6 deaths per 100,000 boats in 2008, the U.S. Coast  Guard announced. Overall numbers: 709 deaths, 3,331 injuries and about $54 million in property damage incurred during 4,789 boating accidents.

Reaction: It's a good thing summer's almost over because that's a lot of carnage. And it's sad to think that a lot of it could have been avoided had more people taken a boating education course, worn life jackets, utilized a designated driver and exercised common sense.

Two-thirds of the victims drowned and 90% were not wearing life jackets. The Coast Guard also cites as factors operator inattention, careless driving, inexperience and reckless skier or wakeboarder behavior.

Alcohol consumption was the leading contributor in 17% of the fatalities.

In California, for local boaters keeping score, there were 520 accidents and 45 fatalities last year.

Coast Guard Rear Adm. Kevin Cook points out that only 10% of deaths occurred on boats where the operator had participated in a boating safety course.

That ought to be a requirement, just as it is for operators of automobiles. Sure, they give a driver's license to just about anyone and busy streets and freeways are a fright, but it pays to receive some kind of basic instruction. 

-- Pete Thomas

Photo: Boaters enjoy a calm day at the popular hangout called the Sandbar on Lake Havasu. Credit: Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times

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Comments (2)

With recent cuts to the Bureau of Land Management's Lake Havasu office, expect the death toll to increase. The boating program which includes Lake Park Ranges for the Lake Havasu area has been put to a halt with recent budget cuts. Another example of the Obama stimulus package at work? The promise of job growth where? With unemployment at double digit levels, three BLM Park Rangers will find themselves among those unemployed and those that have benefited from the program for years, will now have to due without. A hard thing to comprehend for two spring breaker's last March. When their jet ski capsized, leaving them struggling to stay afloat in the water. Had it not been for the quick action of the Park Rangers, these young women would most likly have drowned. But after this season, the Ranger progam will come to an end, leaving the thousands of annual visitors to fend for themselves.

Cal Boating’s Safety Team is on board for boater safety education. They have set up a website to promote the idea and to provide some basic information. Check it out at: http://bit.ly/3yJNB7. One extra look around the boat or one extra second to buckle up a life vest will mean a world of difference, so hopefully anyone going out onto the water will make safety their top priority.


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