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NYS Sheriffs urge boating safety as summer approaches

Law enforcement officials gathered in Rensselaer Thursday at the Albany Yacht Club to observe National Safe Boating Week.

A blustery day along the banks of the Hudson River proved to be a fitting prelude to the upcoming Memorial Day weekend as the New York State Sheriff's Association joined other groups in committing to safe boating through support for the WEAR IT campaign. Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple says the initiative promotes the value of voluntary, consistent wearing of life jackets by recreational boaters.

"The New York State Office of Parks and Recreation and Historic Preservation reports that during 2022 there were 198 boating accidents resulting in 77 injuries and 28 fatalities, on New York State waterways alone," said Apple. "Fifteen of the fatalities were paddlers. The U.S. Coast Guard statistics show that drowning was the reported cause of death of four out of every five recreational boating fatalities in 2021. And that 83% of those who drowned were not wearing life jackets.”

New York State Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation Director of Marine and Recreation and Vehicles Paul Littman warned paddlers to take extra precautions on the water.

“We've compiled some incident and fatality data for 2022. And as we've noted, New York State had 29 fatalities, which is an increase of 11 fatalities or 61% over 2021, and 15 out of those 29 fatalities were on paddle craft. That's an increase of nine over last year. Paddle craft make up only 7% of vessels involved in incidents, but they make up 53% of the fatalities,” said Littman.

Apple pointed out that alcohol is a leading factor in boating deaths.

“Where the primary cause was known alcohol was listed as the leading factor and 16% of the deaths," Apple said. "Stay sober when boating. Safe boating begins with preparation. Basic boating safety procedures can ensure boaters stay safe throughout the season. Carry and know how to use life-saving emergency distress and communications equipment. Wear a life jacket. Check the weather including the water temperature. Attend safe boating courses, participate in free boating safety checks.”

Ulster County Sheriff Juan Figueroa says safety is paramount for boaters.

“You look out for kayakers and those that are out there on jet skis. You heard the stats. They're real. The weather can change in a blink of an eye, the water and the currents change on this river and it can be quite dangerous. I want everybody to have a great recreational summer. But be vigilant and be safe,” said Figueroa.

Officials say by 2025, operators of motorized vessels in New York state will be required to attend a boater safety course and possess a boating safety certificate.

• NYS Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation 2022 Recreational Boating Report.
- RecreationalBoatingReport2022.pdf(ny.gov)
• US Coast Guard Safe Boating Statistics
- https://uscgboating.org/statistics/index.php.
• National Safe Boating Council – Safe Boating Campaign 2023


Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.