Wardens issue plea for safety among boaters

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AUGUSTA – Hoping to decrease boating accidents, the Maine Warden Service has issued a safety reminder for the long Fourth of July holiday weekend. That’s when the state’s boating season is launched on Maine’s inland waterways.

Essentially, the service says people should boat safely and abide by Maine’s boating laws.

“Each year, more than half of Maine’s boating deaths involve non-motorized watercraft such as canoes and kayaks with the paddler not wearing a personal flotation device,” warden service spokesman Mark Latti stated Friday.

Last year, there were 83 boating accidents, of which, 57 resulted in injuries. There were 12 fatalities, of which eight involved personal watercraft, according to service statistics also released Friday by Latti.

But 2005 was the worst year, with 16 people killed, nine involving use of personal watercraft. Of the 67 accidents, 57 resulted in injuries. Unlike last year’s single accident involving drunken driving, there were eight such incidents in 2005.

This season, game wardens will conduct an increased number of watercraft safety checks to ensure compliance with Maine’s boating laws, especially pertaining to life jackets, said Col. Tom Santaguida, chief of the Maine Warden Service.

Maine law requires that boats have properly fitting personal flotation devices or life jackets aboard.

“Our goal is to increase compliance and, as a result, save lives,” Santaguida said.

Latti urged that people heading out on the water should ensure the following:

• They have proper safety equipment, including personal flotation devices for everyone on board.

• That motorized boats are registered and display a lake and river protection sticker.

• They are familiar with the proper operation of the boat.

• Check the weather forecast.

• Tell someone where they are going and when they expect to return.

• Do not drink and drive.

For a list of Maine’s boating laws and regulations, visit www.mefishwildlife.com.

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