An increase of new Upper Cumberland boaters in 2020 seems to be the cause for more boating incidents.
That is according to TWRA Wildlife Officer Dustin Buttram. Buttram said with the pandemic, the region saw a tremendous uptick in people interested in the hobby.
“There was a huge increase of people going to the outdoors,” Buttram said. “With business being shut down and social distancing, there was a huge increase in boat sales and boat registrations, and a lot of those new boat registrations were first time boaters.”
According to TWRA, the region saw two fatalities, nine serious injuries and 10 property damages last year. That is an increase in all categories compared to 2019.
“Any time we see any accidents, it is a concerning incident,” Buttram said. “We are always trying to find ways to prevent all of them. Anytime we see more increase, we are looking at what we can do better to educate the public more to reduce those numbers.”
Buttram said he recommends for all beginners to take boating safety classes with TWRA. Buttram said it is state law that any person born after January 1st, 1989 is required to do so.
“We offer that class to anyone of any ages,” Buttram said. “That is a huge resource to know the laws and the safety and how to properly prepare for an outing on the lake. There is online courses that will teach you the education, and we produce reading material, as well.”
According to TWRA, zero fatalities, five serious injuries and three property damages were reported in 2019 across Clay, Dekalb, Pickett and Smith Counties.