Boating accidents down in 2013
There were 38 reportable boating accidents in 2013, compared with 42 in 2012.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
As a result, the staff of 38 officers last year has grown to 44 officers this year.
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.
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.