Illinois is set to open up further to outdoor gatherings on Friday. The Illinois Department of Natural Resources Conservation Police are wanting to remind boaters to drive sober on the state’s recreational waterways. Already this year,Conservation Police Officers have made 17arrests for operating under the influence–10 in June alone. Last year, Conservation Police Officers made 103 arrests for boaters operating under the influence. Additionally, Conservation Police Officers in 2019 issued 725 citations and 2,623 warnings in enforcement of Illinois boating safety laws.
IDNR Spokesperson Rachel Torbert says it’s just like operating a motor vehicle: “Getting behind the wheel of a boat drunk is the same as getting behind the wheel of a car drunk. It’s just as dangerous for you. It’s dangerous for other boaters, and it’s dangerous for people on your boat.”
Illinois Conservation Police will be out in force during the Fourth of July holiday, not only checking for impaired boat operators, but also making safety checks on watercraft throughout the state. Torbert says they will also make sure every boater is wearing a life jacket. “Illinois requires that anyone under the age of 13 is to wear a life jacket while aboard a watercraft. You have to have life jackets on your watercraft for every person who is there, and they all must fit properly.”
The IDNR offers boating safety courses that provide a review of boating laws and regulations, as well as instructions on safe and attentive operation of watercraft and encourages boaters of all ages to take a safety course. While the IDNR normally offers free boating safety courses taught by volunteer instructors, those courses are suspended at this time due to the COVID-19 pandemic. When the courses resume, schedules will be available on the IDNR website’s boating information page. For a fee, online boating safety courses are available.