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Boating accidents down in 2013

Union Leader Correspondent

May 13. 2014 8:37PM
A state Marine Patrol boat leaves to patrol Lake Winnipesaukee on Tuesday. (COURTESY)

GILFORD — The state marine patrol says boating fatalities and accidents were down substantially last year, showing that the state’s mandatory boater education program is working.

There were 38 reportable boating accidents in 2013, compared with 42 in 2012.

There was only one fatality on the state’s lakes last year, compared with four the summer before, another good sign of boater awareness, said N.H. Marine Patrol Lt. Tim Dunleavy.

“We would like to get the number down to zero fatalities,” Dunleavy said.The accident numbers have been steadily decreasing since 2008, when the state enacted a mandatory boater education program. During the six years prior, the state averaged 62½ reportable accidents a year.Since 2008, the average number of reportable accidents each summer has dropped to just over 43 a year.

“The boater awareness program is clearly working,” Dunleavy said.

Everyone age 16 and older operating a motorboat with 25 horsepower or more on state waters must have a boating education certificate.

Boaters can take an eight-hour course to obtain their certificate, or they can try to pass a one-hour test if they believe they have the knowledge and skills necessary to pass.

Driving intoxicated

The exam doesn’t stop drivers from driving drunk, though. There were 29 arrests last summer, of which 18 were for driving a boat while intoxicated, one more arrest than the year previous, he said.

“We’d like to see that number drop, too,” Dunleavy said,

After a few down years with staffing because of budget cuts, the number of marine patrol officers is increasing again this year, though like other law enforcement agencies, the marine patrol is having trouble recruiting officers, said Dunleavy.

Department reorganized

Three years ago, the state cut the marine patrol’s budget and the department was reorganized.

“We cut back coverage as best we could without compromising safety of the boaters on the lakes,” Dunleavy said.

But since then, the marine patrol has been “rebuilding,” Dunleavy said. “The last two years, the funding has been good,” he said.

As a result, the staff of 38 officers last year has grown to 44 officers this year.

“And we are still recruiting for this summer; we hope to add more officers,” he said.

Boating registrations are down so far, which is to be expected because of the late ice-out, Dunleavy said. As of last week, there were about 42,600 boats registered in the state, compared to about 45,600 last year at this time.

“Considering the late ice-out, to be about 3,000 registrations off is not a concern,” Dunleavy said.

The state has not recovered from the recession in terms of boater registrations.

Before 2007, the state averaged “well over 100,000 boats” each summer, he said. Last summer, about 93,991 boats were registered in the state.

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