Alcohol, inexperience and lack of life jackets common trends in boating incidents
GRAND FORKS, N.D. -- Boating accidents and fatalities in Minnesota have remained steady over the last several years, most of which could have been prevented, one state official said.
GRAND FORKS, N.D. - Boating accidents and fatalities in Minnesota have remained steady over the last several years, most of which could have been prevented, one state official said.
There have already been 40 boating accidents and six deaths this year in the state, according to Debbie Mundon Badini, the boat and safety education coordinator at the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. Those numbers are on par with previous year, she added.
If people would take the proper precautions, however, those numbers could go down exponentially, said Munson Badini.
“Sometimes little things make the biggest difference,” she said.
Since 2008, Minnesota has averaged 75 boating accidents per year, according to the U.S. Coast Guard, a number that has remained steady over the last several years.
Among those accidents, an average of 17 people died per year from 1998 to 2014.
Munson Badini said she has seen a common thread in most of these accidents: alcohol, boaters lacking experience and passengers not wearing life jackets.
According to the U.S. Coast Guard data, 36 percent of fatal accidents in Minnesota since 1998 have involved alcohol. That was the second leading cause of such incidents after poor weather.
Munson Badini said Minnesota has some of the strongest boating while intoxicated laws in the country, with those breaking the law possibly facing hefty fines and losing their boat or licenses.
“We’ve really tried to get the word out lately that drunk boating is drunk driving,” she said. “In Minnesota, a BWI (boating while intoxicated) is treated just like a DWI (driving while intoxicated).”
During the years, those patrolling Minnesota waterways, including both conservation officers and county water patrols, also have seen an alarming number of boats without proper life jackets on board.
In Minnesota, it is required that there is a life jacket for every person on the boat. As well, children under the age of 10 must be wearing a life jacket at all times. In 13 of 14 deaths last year, Munson Badini said the person who died was not wearing a life jacket. She said those patrolling the waters have seen many boats that do not have life jackets on board at all, which is against state law.
“It’s not a real big and exciting type of thing, but wearing a life jacket can be the difference between life and death,” she said.
Among deaths, the boat capsizing or a person falling overboard were by far the leading causes. Munson Badini said most people don’t picture that scenario, but people are much more likely to die that way instead of in a collision.