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The Arizona Game and Fish Department (AZGFD), in partnership with the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA), is encouraging the state’s boating and watercraft users to Spring Aboard and prepare for the boating season by enrolling in a safety education course.

Spring Aboard is a national campaign that runs from March 19 to 25 and encourages boaters to protect themselves and their passengers by taking a safety course before stepping onto a boat or watercraft. This year, those who complete one of AZGFD’s free boating safety courses will be eligible to receive a free watercraft rental.

“Boating is a great family friendly activity, but only if it’s done safely and responsibly,” said Josh Hoffman, AZGFD Boating Safety Education coordinator. “The best way to ensure everyone on the water is having a great time is by taking a boating safety course. And because the Arizona Game and Fish Department offers them free of charge, there’s really no reason not to sign up for one today.”

Additionally, those who successfully complete a course are better informed on how to avoid an accident or tragedy on the water.

In 2015 nationwide, 71 percent of the 626 watercraft-related deaths involved a vessel where the operator had never taken a safety course, according to U.S. Coast Guard statistics. It’s with that statistic in mind that NASBLA developed and produced Spring Aboard, utilizing a grant from the U.S. Coast Guard.

“We know that an educated boater is safer on the water,” NASBLA President Stephanie Weatherington said. “If a boater has taken a boating safety education course, the likelihood of their time spent on the water being a safe and enjoyable experience is much greater.”

Most states require proof of completion of a boating education course for operators of some powered vessels. During the Spring Aboard campaign, many course providers, including AZGFD, will offer incentives or course discounts for students who enroll in or complete a course.

“With today’s wide variety of courses available, there’s a course for everyone’s schedule,” Weatherington said. “Boaters have many ways to get educated, from classroom courses offered by the Coast Guard Auxiliary and United States Power Squadrons to online offerings available anytime day or night. There’s no reason to head out on the water without knowing what you’re doing.”

AZGFD offers free courses in Phoenix and Lake Havasu City monthly to provide water users the information and tips needed to stay safe while on the water. Each year many deaths and injuries on Arizona’s waterways are the result of people who don’t know how to operate a watercraft properly or how to act to avoid placing themselves in danger.

For more information on boating safety or to register for a hands-on or online safety course, visit www.azgfd.gov/boating and click “Boating Safety Education.” Below is a list of hands-on boating safety courses scheduled for April:

Arizona Boater Education Course

  • 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. March 18, Apex Arms Facility, Green Building in Lake Havasu City
  • 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. March, 18, Arizona Game and Fish Headquarters in Phoenix

Arizona Paddlesports Education Course

  • 10 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. March 11, Biscuit Tank at Ben Avery Shooting Facility in Phoenix

The department’s courses include instruction on the basic skills needed to safely operate a boat or personal watercraft, trailering your vessel, navigational rules, buoys, anchoring, legal requirements, boating emergencies, watersports and paddling. In addition, most insurance companies offer a discount on boat or watercraft insurance rates for completing a course.

The department also reminds watercraft users that all boats, including paddleboards, must have a wearable life jacket for every passenger onboard and those 12 years old and younger must wear a life jacket at all times, under state law. Users should also check to make sure a life jacket fits properly by ensuring there is no excess room above the openings of the jacket and that it does not ride up over the chin or face.

For more information on boating in Arizona or to sign up for a safety course, visit www.azgfd.gov/boating. To learn more about Spring Aboard, visit www.nasbla.org/spring.

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