2003 California Boating Safety Report

Section 1

Introduction



Keep it clean when you boat and fishCalifornia’s rivers, lakes, and coastal areas offer boating enthusiasts a wide variety of recreational opportunities, including:

•  1,356,780 surface acres of water

•  30 popular whitewater rivers, with approximately 2,600 miles of waterways

•  3,427 miles of coastline and tidal shoreline.

Boating popularity grew steadily over the last decade, as reflected by the increase in the number of registered vessels.  As of December 31, 2003, California had 963,379 registered vessels, the second highest in the nation.

The Department’s mission is to provide safe and convenient public access to California waterways and to provide leadership in promoting the public’s right to safe and enjoyable boating.  To accomplish this, the Department administers statewide boating accident, law enforcement, and safety education programs.  The California Boating Safety Report highlights important statistics and describes current and future program activities to enhance boating safety.

A.  Boating Accident Program

The Department’s boating accident program disseminates accident information to boaters, law enforcement agencies, educational organizations, and the media.  The program is mandated by Part 173 of Title 33 of the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations.  Annual accident information collected by the Department is forwarded to the U.S. Coast Guard in Washington D.C., and is made a part of the Coast Guard’s annual publication, Boating Statistics.

California accident statistics are compiled under state law, Section 656 of the Harbors and Navigation Code, which requires a boater who is involved in an accident to file a written report with the Department when:

•  A person dies, disappears, or is injured requiring medical attention beyond first aid; or

•  Damage to a vessel or other property exceeds $500, or there is complete loss of a vessel.

Department staff review reported accidents, determine the cause(s), and identify preventative measures and specific safety-related problems.  Safety education and public information program staff incorporate these safety problems and related solutions into updated course materials, promotional activities, and brochures.  Law enforcement staff also communicate these safety problems during Department-sponsored training sessions for law enforcement officers.

B.  Boating Law Enforcement Programs

El Dorado Sheriff's Department hard at work patrolling the American RiverThe primary objective of the Department’s law enforcement program is to assist law enforcement agencies that provide waterborne law enforcement services.  These local agencies enhance boating safety through the enforcement of safety laws and regulations.  To this end, the unit offers training to law enforcement officers to ensure uniform enforcement of boating laws, and provides financial support to counties for law enforcement programs and activities.

During FY 2002/03, law enforcement officers from agencies participating in the financial aid program provided nearly 105,000 operators with boating safety education through enforcement activities.  Their verbal warnings and written citations were instrumental in helping to prevent accidents and improve boating safety.

C.  Boating Safety Education Programs

An instructor assists a student learning to water skiThe Department provides accessible boating safety education through partnerships with educational institutions and non-profit organizations.  These entities, in turn, provide crucial aquatic and boating safety education to students and the general public.  Both teachers and students praise the boating safety course materials developed by the Department for their exceptional content and ease of use.

Additionally, the Department’s Public Information Unit provides safety information to millions of boaters through the Department’s website (www.dbw.ca.gov), publication distribution, public service announcements (PSAs), and press releases.  The Department has more than 50 different boating safety publications covering many topics, such as boating and alcohol use and proper PWC handling.  Basic boating information, including laws and regulations, rules of the road, and safe operation practices, is provided to each person registering a vessel through the Department of Motor Vehicles.

Other safety messages are disseminated through the Department’s Boating Safety Awareness multimedia campaign.  These methods allow the Department to reach boaters who may not otherwise come into contact with other forms of boating safety information the Department provides at safety fairs, boat shows, or in pamphlets.

In 2003, the Department received a National Safe Boating Council award for the “Safety Pirate” PSA, which was created by the Department for use as a national public service announcement made available to all states on the Council’s website.  This radio spot has also been used internationally in Europe and Australia.