In 2014, seventy percent of all fatal boating accidents victims nationwide drowned, and of those, eighty-four percent were not wearing a life jacket. Eight out of every ten boaters who drowned were using vessels less than 21 feet in length.
Overloaded boats and failure to wear life jackets are leading reasons Idaho typically loses a couple of hunters or anglers every year.
"During waterfowl season, hunters deal with hazardous and treacherous conditions. Add those conditions to a fall overboard or a capsized boat and that is a deadly combination," said Juelie Traska, Idaho Parks and Recreation's boat education coordinator.
Idaho's boating laws and simple safety guidelines include:
- Wear life jackets while on the water, especially when in transit or when the weather turns bad. Small boats combined with limited visibility and high winds can be hazards to safe navigation. Remember: Idaho boating laws requires all vessels to have at least one properly sized life jacket for each person on board. Life jackets only work if they are worn.
- Be aware of the capacity of your boat and be careful not to overload vessels. Many waterfowl boats are small and they can easily be overloaded with hunters, dogs, and gear.
- Vessels are required to display navigation lights between sunset and sunrise and in periods of restricted visibility such as fog or heavy rain.
- Be prepared for changes in the weather and dress accordingly.
- Leave the alcohol at home. Alcohol makes a person more susceptible to hypothermia, interferes with their ability to swim, and to make quick decisions in an accident.
- Do not be afraid to cancel the trip if the weather turns bad.
Learn more about Idaho boating laws and safety guidelines by attending a free boating safety class. Upcoming classes will be held October 17 in Hayden and October 24 in Boise. For details or to register, visit www.boatidaho.gov.