DNREC launches new safe boating campaign

DOVER — The campaign is “Spring Aboard.” Its purpose is to encourage people to enroll in a boating safety course before heading out on the water.

The Delaware Office of Boating Safety and Education, DNREC Division of Fish & Wildlife, has joined with the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators to promote this week’s national “Spring Aboard” campaign.

“Our boating safety education program plays a significant role in Delaware’s strong boating safety record,” said David Saveikis, director of DNREC’s Division of Fish & Wildlife. “As a lifelong boater myself, I encourage boaters to learn the boating ‘rules of the road’ and to practice safe boating each and every time they head out to enjoy our beautiful waterways.”

While acknowledging some accidents are unavoidable, Chief Robert Legates of the Fish & Wildlife Natural Resources Police encouraged people on the waterways to be alert, use common sense and avoid potentially dangerous actions.

“Education is the key to Delaware’s success in boating safety,” Chief Legates said. Under Delaware law, all people born on or after Jan. 1, 1978, must successfully complete a boating safety course in order to operate a boat or personal watercraft in Delaware waters. In 2015, 2001 students took boating safety courses online or in a classroom.

“Last year, we had one boating-related fatality and 25 reportable boating accidents, which, while unfortunate, still puts Delaware below the national average based on the relative number of boaters. We’d like to see the number of accidents go down,” said Sgt. John McDerby, Fish & Wildlife Natural Resources Police boating safety coordinator.

He said that so far this year Delaware has had one reported boating accident and no fatalities.

U.S. Coast Guard statistics from 2014, the most recent year available, indicate that when the level of operator education was known, 80 percent of boating deaths occurred on boats where the boat operator had never received boating education instruction. Forty-nine states and U.S. territories require proof of completion of a boating education course for operators of some powered vessels, and many states, including Delaware, require completion of a course verified by the boating law administrators as meeting the national boating education standard for powerboat rental or operation.

“Boating isn’t like driving a car, and many boaters – both new and experienced – are uncertain about how to boat safely,” said NASBLA President Col. Darren Rider. “The ‘Spring Aboard’ campaign is our big, unified effort to get all boaters educated. T

In Delaware, DNREC offers classroom boating safety courses in partnership with local boating safety organizations, such as the Coast Guard Auxiliary and United States Power Squadrons.

Delaware’s eight-hour basic boating safety course, which fulfills Delaware’s mandatory boating safety class requirement, is offered in multiple locations statewide in one to four sessions. Upon completing the course, boaters receive a boating safety certificate, which they must carry with them while boating as proof of course completion.

Courses cover the rules and regulations of Delaware’s waterways including appropriate speed limits, responsible boating skills and awareness and how to distinguish navigational aids and water depths. Also covered are weather tips, information about basic engine mechanics and required and/or recommended safety equipment, what to do if a Fish & Wildlife Natural Resources Police officer stops your vessel and the dangers of boating under the influence.

Several providers also offer a Delaware-approved online version of the boating safety course. As an added incentive during NASBLA’s “Spring Aboard” campaign, BOATERExam.com will offer a 50 percent discount to students who complete their online boating safety course between today and April 23. For more information, visit www.boaterexam.com/usa/.

Delaware’s Office of Boating Safety and Education also provides volunteer instructors to private and non-profit organizations, schools, clubs and the general public to educate boaters on skills and seamanship and to encourage them to be safe, knowledgeable and responsible.

For more information, including Delaware’s boating safety course schedule, access to the online Delaware Boating Handbook and other boating information, please visit www.dnrec.delaware.gov or contact Sgt. John McDerby at (302) 739-9913 or email john.mcderby@state.de.us.

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