Editor’s Note: All across the state, outdoorsmen are dying in boating accidents. It is happening on everyday trips on the water. It is happening in places like Toledo Bend, Lake Pontchartrain, Cross Lake, Blind River, Calcasieu Lake, False River, the Intracoastal Waterway and more. Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Secretary Jack Montoucet has sent this urgent message to Louisiana boaters:
Louisiana, please take note.
So far this year there have been 22 fatalities in boating accidents in the state. There were 26 in all of 2021 and 24 in 2020. As Secretary of the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, I feel compelled to yell “STOP.”
What we need to do is not complicated.
Wear a personal flotation device, although the old name, “Life Jacket,” gets the point across better. Great swimmers, not wearing a life jacket, have fallen into the water and drowned because they were injured in the fall or were swept away by a strong undercurrent that defeated them. A life jacket could have made the difference.
According to the United States Coast Guard (USCG), in 2020, 86% of the nation’s drowning victims were not wearing a life jacket.
Driving a boat and consuming alcohol is a deadly mix. Stop. Alcohol use is the leading known contributing factor in fatal boating accidents, according to the USCG.
Folks, be mindful that sitting or standing on any portion of the deck of a vessel that is not designated for seating, no matter how much fun it is, can be very dangerous. Boats regularly encounter waves or vessel wakes and occasionally hit submerged objects, and factor in speed, now you have an increased the risk of being thrown overboard.
Boating safety classes
LDWF offers boating safety classes (https://www.wlf.louisiana.gov/page/boater-education) around the state. These classes are mandatory for anyone born after January 1, 1984, who wants to operate a watercraft over 10 horsepower. But, we want all boaters to take the course.
USCG’s 2020 statistics found that, 77 percent of deaths occurred on vessels where the operator had not received boating safety instruction.
Understand that every boat, even the trusted one you are driving or riding in, can be unsafe in a split second because of negligence, another boater or suddenly troubled waters.
Please folks, be wise. Care about yourselves and the people around you by adhering to safety protocols — wear a life jacket, boat sober, do not ride in a vessel if the captain is impaired, and take a boater safety class. These measures can help you, your loved ones and friends return home alive.
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