June 2006

Focus On Boating Safety This Season

PHOENIX — Spring heat is setting in, and that means many Arizonans will be heading to the water to cool off. As boating season arrives, the Arizona Game and Fish Department wants to remind you to stay safe, especially because Arizona has six of the 20 most dangerous waterways in the United States.

"National Safe Boating Week [was] celebrated from May 20-26, but boating safety is really important every day," says Arizona’s Boating Law Administrator Kevin Bergersen. "You should always be sure to take the precautions that will help keep your boating trip safe and fun."

Among the things you should do before heading out on a lake or river:

  1. Make sure enough life jackets are on board the boat for everyone and make sure they’re all the right size, Coast Guard-approved and in good working order, free from holes.
  2. Check that your boat’s motor and propulsion system are working right.
  3. Know the passenger and weight limits for your boat (they have been upgraded), so you can avoid overloading it.
  4. Make sure your fire extinguishers work.
  5. Put drain plugs back in your boat after winter storage.
  6. Don’t ever drink and drive a boat.

The Arizona Game and Fish Department schedules operating under the influence (OUI) checkpoints at various times throughout boating season. The department also uses high-saturation or "wolf-pack" patrols, where officers patrol high-use areas, looking for impaired boat operators on our waterways.

"We want everyone to enjoy their time on the water in a responsible way," says Bergersen. "By following the tips above, folks can have a great time, and needless tragedies can hopefully be avoided.

The U.S. Coast Guard estimates more than 400 lives could have been saved nationwide in 2003 if all boaters had worn life jackets. In 2004, 12 people lost their lives in Arizona, six of who could possibly still be alive today if they had worn life jackets.

Also, alcohol was a contributing factor in about one-third of all reported recreational boating deaths. We want to educate everyone about the things they can do to protect themselves and their families."

The Arizona Game and Fish Department recommends taking a boating education class. Statistics show knowledgeable boaters are safe boaters. Those interested in taking a Game and Fish boating safety class can call (602) 789-3235 or visit azgfd.gov/boating for more information.