KNOXVILLE, Tennessee (WVLT) – The number of people killed in boating accidents on Tennessee’s waterways in 2020 is the worst in nearly 40 years, and 2021 is poised to be just as dangerous. TWRA spokesman Matt Cameron said it had a lot to do with the pandemic.
TWRA reported 32 people killed in boating accidents in 2020, the highest number since 1983. In 2019, TWRA reported eight fatalities. Cameron said this was a tragic trend linked to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“COVID is blamed for a lot of things, but we really think this is a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said.
Cameron said more people with less experience on the water were buying boats in 2020, while at the same time fewer TWRA agents were on patrol due to social distancing guidelines.
“It was kind of a perfect storm, more people on the water, probably less experienced people on the water, then less officers, and unfortunately 32 people lost their lives last year.” Cameron said.
Just over a week after Memorial Day weekend, TWRA has so far reported 10 people killed in boating crashes on Tennessee waterways.
“We are seeing that number increase and we just hope it is not going to continue to increase,” Cameron added.
Cameron recalled that people born in 1989 or later must take a boating safety course to operate a boat, the course is free for people born before 1989.
“90% of stranded people don’t wear a lifejacket, so if we can just put a lifejacket on everyone, when they fall or get off the boat saying they are being kicked out of a ship, their chances of survival are much higher, ”Cameron said.
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