The sun is out and boaters are ready to ditch the rain and hit the river.
That’s why the U.S. Coast Guard is reminding people about National Safe Boating Week.
David Perrin, Petty Officer First Class, said waters like the Illinois River are among the most dangerous.
“Actually 9 out of 10 drownings happen on inland waters, just like the Illinois River. So we might associate more of a coastal area as somewhere that’s deadlier but its actually the inland lakes and waterways just like the Illinois River,” said Perrin.
Perrin said the most important thing people can do is wear a life jacket.
“80% of the deaths on the waterways are drownings, and 75% of those were not wearing their life jacket,” he said.
The latest reports from the Illinois DNR state there were 80 boating accidents in 2017, with 48 injuries and 12 deaths; all drownings.
“Two thirds of the people that did drown were actually identified as strong swimmers,” said Perrin.
Ten of those twelve who drowned were not wearing life jackets. Perrin said the quality of the product matters too.
“We’re looking for the general wear and tear, so we’re making sure we don’t have any tears in the life jacket itself.”
That’s most important for kids.
“A lot of times especially with young children we’ll see adults giving them life jackets that wouldn’t help them, that would honestly just slip right over the top of them.”
With current water levels on the Illinois River, Perrin said it’s more treacherous this Memorial Day weekend.
“The current is going to be stronger and there’s going to be a lot of debris in the water, so if you’re driving in your boat you could hit something that’s submerged which could cause you to start taking on water.”
He also said you need a working fire extinguisher, throwable life vest, a whistle, and what he calls a ‘Float Plan’. That’s when you tell someone where you plan to take your boat and how long you’ll be gone; just in case something happens to you.
As always, the Coast Guard will be watching.
“Excessive rates of speed in unsafe manner, that’s what we’re looking for,” said Perrin.
In addition to water patrols, police will be watching for dangerous behavior on land too.
Peoria Police spokesperson, Amy Dotson, said they will have increased patrols this weekend.
“There will be increased patrol and increased patrol presence..and the big push will be seat belts,” she said.
The Cost Guard has an app you can download and put in your boat’s information so you can check if you’re in compliance.