By Paul DeMarco, former Alabama State Representative
This summer has proven to be deadly on Alabama waterways, with 25 fatalities so far this year.
The high number of deadly boating accidents has made 2019 one of the worst years for deadly boating accidents in over 20 years. While only midway through the year, the numbers have already eclipsed fatal boating accidents in each of the past two years in Alabama.
There is no rhyme or reason for the recent increase in deaths on the state’s waters. The accidents have occurred both at daylight and night, while alcohol and driver error have also been involved. However, one consistent fact is that Alabama has woefully underfunded the state’s marine police who can patrol and enforce state boating laws.
This past session, in an effort to reduce traffic fatalities, the Alabama Legislature increased funding by the tune of $7 million to the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency to put an additional 50 troopers on the state’s highways.
The State Marine Patrol told The Trussville Tribune that there are more boaters on the water and fewer law officers, with over one million boaters each year on the state’s lakes, rivers and coastline. However, there are only 45 current marine patrol troopers with 21 vacancies. State lawmakers need to now budget more monies to the Marine Patrol to provide for more presence on the state’s waters.
Hopefully more law enforcement on Alabama’s waterways will reduce the accidents and fatalities.