Arkansas Boat­ing Ac­ci­dent Re­port Em­pha­sizes Life Jacket Im­por­tance

Modern Pioneer - - News -

As the warmth of spring be­gins to creep back into the fore­cast and peo­ple’s minds be­gin drift­ing back to an­gling and other fun wa­ter ac­tiv­i­ties, the Arkansas Game and Fish Com­mis­sion (AGFC) would like to re­mind ev­ery­one to make sure they have a prop­erly fit­ting, work­ing life jacket for ev­ery per­son on board the boat.

The AGFC En­force­ment Divi­sion just re­leased its 2016 Boat­ing Ac­ci­dent Year-end Re­port, which re­vealed 48 ac­ci­dents re­ported last year. Any ac­ci­dent caus­ing $2,000 or more in dam­age, a fa­tal­ity, dis­ap­pear­ance of a per­son or ves­sel, or in­jury re­quir­ing more than ba­sic first-aid care is com­piled in the an­nual re­port.

Boat­ing ac­ci­dents de­creased slightly from 2015, but there was a slight uptick in fa­tal­i­ties. Eleven peo­ple died in boat­ing ac­ci­dents in Arkansas dur­ing 2016. Nine of those vic­tims drowned, and nearly all of these losses could have been pre­vented if the vic­tim had been wear­ing a life jacket. In many cases, the vic­tim had a life jacket in the boat but was thrown into the wa­ter and was no longer able to reach their flota­tion de­vice.

“Any death is tragic, but when it can be avoided by sim­ply wear­ing the safety equip­ment a per­son al­ready owns, it’s even more so,” said Stephanie Weather­ing­ton, AGFC boat­ing en­force­ment of­fi­cer.

Weather­ing­ton says the vol­un­tary use of life jack­ets still re­mains an is­sue with Arkansas boaters, as only 31% of peo­ple in­volved in any boat­ing ac­ci­dent were wear­ing life jack­ets at the time of the in­ci­dent and nearly half of those peo­ple were re­quired by law to wear them.

“In essence only 16.5% of boaters vol­un­tar­ily wore their life jack­ets when they didn’t have to,” Weather­ing­ton said.

Weather­ing­ton says 2016 did re­veal an al­most 50% de­crease in drug- or al­co­hol-re­lated ac­ci­dents. She hopes the trend con­tin­ues and wildlife of­fi­cers per­sist in keep­ing our wa­ters safe from peo­ple who are boat­ing un­der the in­flu­ence. But at 27% of all boat­ing ac­ci­dents in­volv­ing al­co­hol or drugs, she says there’s still a lot of room for im­prove­ment. “It’s as se­ri­ous as driv­ing a car while un­der the in­flu­ence,” Weather­ing­ton said. “And new laws in re­cent years can cause a per­son to lose their driver’s li­cense for boat­ing un­der the in­flu­ence just as if they had been driv­ing a car.”

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