Waukegan, Ill. (June 6, 2017) – After years of a decline in recreational boating, Lake County authorities are expecting boating to pick up again this season on Chain O’ Lakes and Fox River. And with an increase in boating activity brings increased risk of accidents or arrests.
To keep locals safe this summer, authorities say they are determined to crack down on intoxicated boaters and reckless boating habits. The Lake County Sheriff’s Marine Unit says the kickoff of this year’s boating season, Memorial Day Weekend, was relatively calm despite a large number of boaters on the water. They say everyone they spotted had a life jacket on, and hope that trend continues throughout the summer.
Last year, the unit says they had 24 operating under the influence (OUI) arrests, compared to 44 in 2015.
For boaters in Illinois, the legal blood-alcohol limit is .08 percent, the same as driving a vehicle. An OUI is considered a Class A misdemeanor and could leave the offender with either a $2,500 fine or a year in jail. If the person causes an accident that results in serious injury or death or is charged with a second OUI, the violation could increase to a felony.
In addition for being on the lookout for intoxicated boaters this summer, officers are also making sure boats are not driving too close to swimmers or tubers.
According to Conservation Police Officers, lack of a personal flotation device and operating under the influence are the top boating violations cited by officers. Officers told the Chicago Tribune that it only takes a few seconds to fasten a life jacket, and those few seconds can save your life in the event of a boating accident.
According to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, there were 73 boating-related accidents in Illinois in 2016, resulting in 36 injuries and 11 fatalities. Those numbers were slightly lower than the 74 boating accidents that occurred in Illinois in 2015, resulting in 49 injuries and 14 fatalities. Eleven of those fatalities happened on a day with clear conditions and calm waters. In a majority of the fatal accidents, the drivers had no formal boat safety education.
Boating accident reports indicate the majority of accidents occur between June, July and August, on Saturday or Sunday, between 12 p.m. and 6 p.m. Most accidents involve operators between the ages of 20 and 40 who have more than 100 hours of boating experience, but have little to no classroom boating safety instruction.
Illinois law requires that anyone born after Jan. 1, 1998 to take and pass a boating safety course, as well as hold a valid boating safety certificate before operating a boat with an engine of more than 10 horsepower.
The attorneys of Salvi, Schostok & Pritchard P.C. have been handling boating accident cases for more than 30 years. With offices conveniently located in Chicago and Waukegan, we have helped numerous boat crash victims throughout the state. While every case is different, we have the expertise and knowledge about boat wrecks to help you. To schedule a free consultation, call our Chicago boating accident attorneys today at 312-372-1227.