With the 2019 summer season ahead, boaters will soon be heading out on the water, and the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control’s Fish & Wildlife Natural Resources Police Office of Boating Safety & Education is encouraging boaters to practice safe boating, not just during National Safe Boating Week from May 18-24, but throughout the year as well.

Delaware had 36 reported boating accidents and two fatalities in 2018. So far in 2019, there have been two reported boating accidents to date and no related fatalities in the state.

Statistics support the vital role of wearing life jackets in keeping boaters safe. In 2017, the most recent year for which statistics are available, 76% of all boating-related fatalities nationwide were drowning victims, with 84.5% of those victims not wearing life jackets, according to the U.S. Coast Guard.

To further promote boaters to wear life jackets, Fish & Wildlife Natural Resources Police will kick off a Life Jacket Loaner Program in partnership with Sea Tow Foundation, starting May 20. As an alternative to ending someone’s voyage on Delaware waterways when found to not have the required life jackets, officers will have loaner life jackets in sizes from infant to adult XL onboard their patrol vessels for the public to borrow and return.

“We’re excited to partner with the Sea Tow Foundation to make this Life Jacket Loaner Program available to boaters in our area,” said Fish & Wildlife Natural Resources Police Chief Drew Aydelotte. “This will help ensure that boaters of all ages have proper-fitting life jackets, which will go a long way toward keeping people safe while they’re out enjoying the beautiful waterways of Delaware.”

For more, including Delaware’s boating safety course schedule and the Delaware Boating Handbook, visit bit.ly/2HvNO5U, call 739-9913 or email brooke.mitchell@delaware.gov.