CHICAGO — As the holiday weekend approaches and the weather gets warmer, locals are sure to take to the water by boat this summer. But the fun activity is drawing a warning from city officials, however.

As National Safe Boating Week leads to the holiday weekend, Illinois Conservation Police are reminding boaters not to operate a boat while under the influence and stressing the importance of life jackets.

Officials also urge everyone to wear a life jacket, whether on a motorboat, kayak, or paddleboard, adding that the gear saves lives.

Last year, more than 50 boating accidents were reported on Illinois waters, resulting in the deaths of six people. Four of them were not wearing life jackets or vests. 

According to state officials, the accidents involved a reckless motorboat colliding with another boat.

Dave Coxhead, a lead captain with Freedom Boat Club, teaches the training course members must take but says even the most experienced boaters can benefit from additional safety instruction.

“The No. 1 reason for fatal boating accidents is alcohol use. If you weren’t going to drive in a car and drink, you shouldn’t be driving a boat and drinking,” Coxhead said. “You’ve got to be safe. You’ve got to be paying attention to what you are doing. It’s going to be a lot of boat traffic out there this weekend.”

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Boates should ensure all of their safety equipment is working. Coxhead also urges boaters to keep a close eye on the marine forecast.