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Boating Fatalities Surging in 2014; Officers say Most Deaths Preventable

North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission

Memorial Day Weekend is just around the corner, and law enforcement agencies are gearing up for what is, historically, a busy time.  

This year, officers have their work cut out for them.  Deaths from boating accidents are on the rise.  


So far this year, fourteen people have died in boating accidents in North Carolina.  The average number of fatalities in a year is sixteen. 

Captain Brent Spivey, an Enforcement Officer with the Wildlife Resources Commission, says the spike is alarming – particularly when most of the deaths could have been prevented if boaters had worn life jackets. 

"People are not using them.  Most of the fatalities have been drownings.  They’ve fallen out of the boat.  No life jacket.  And they’re gone.  Most people that go in the water never plan to be in the water."

Anyone under 13 is required by law to wear a life jacket.  But it’s a judgment call for adults.  The other contributing factor to the high rate of deaths this year:  alcohol.

"People go out on water and they want a beer.  That’s okay, but you’ve got to realize what is happening.  You’re losing your judgment, your reaction time – just like on the highway.  In the water you’ve got stressors – you’ve got the sun, the wind, the waves.  So two beers very quickly can react to you like six."

This weekend, the State Highway Patrol, Alcohol Law Enforcement, and the Wildlife Resources Commission are together launching On the Road, On the Water, a multi-agency enforcement initiative targeting impaired drivers with DWI checkpoints on area roadways, near recreational boating areas, and on the water.   

Click here for a Boater's Checklist:


To learn more about boating safety, follow this link:


Rachel hosts and produces CoastLine, an award-winning hourlong conversation featuring artists, humanitarians, scholars, and innovators in North Carolina. The show airs Wednesdays at noon and Sundays at 2 pm on 91.3 FM WHQR Public Media. It's also available as a podcast; just search CoastLine WHQR. You can reach her at rachellh@whqr.org.