(KALB News Channel 5) -- The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) Enforcement Division's Boating Safety Program is reporting a record low of 13 boating fatalities for Louisiana in 2013.
The previous low for boating fatalities was 19 in 1992 with a high of 79 in 1974, which was the first year boating incident statistics were recorded. Louisiana averaged 69 boating fatalities a year from 1974 to 1979, 52 a year from 1980-1989, 32 a year from 1990-1999, 37 a year from 2000 to 2009. Since 2010 Louisiana has averaged 25 boating fatalities a year including 30 in 2012, 36 in 2011 and 21 in 2010.
"While we are always striving for lower boating incidents and fatalities, we are happy to report this record low for boating fatalities for 2013," said Col. Jeff Mayne, head of the LDWF Enforcement Division. "It shows that some of our boating safety initiatives are working and that boaters are doing a great job of adhering to our safe boating regulations."
LDWF contributes the drop in boating fatalities to the mandatory boating education class, stricter driving or operating a vessel while under the influence (DWI) enforcement and introducing new regulations for wearing a personal flotation device (PFD).
The LDWF Boating Safety Program began instituting mandatory boating safety education in 2003 for anybody born after Jan. 1, 1988 who operates a vessel in excess of 10 horsepower. In 2010, LDWF worked with the state legislature to make the boating education course mandatory for anybody born after Jan. 1, 1984. Since 2003 LDWF has certified over 50,000 boaters statewide.
"The mandatory boating education course has proven in other states and this one that over time we will have fewer boating crash incidents and fatalities," said Capt. Rachel Zechenelly, Louisiana's Boating Law Administrator. "We will eventually reach a point of saturation and every boater in the state will be boating education certified, which can only increase the safety of our waterways."
Studies have shown that states with a mandatory boating education program have fewer boating fatalities than states without one. States with a boating education program for more than 20 years had 3.67 fatalities per 100,000 registered boats, and states with no boating education program had 6.61 fatalities per 100,000 boats.