MARSHALL COUNTY, Ala.- Marine police say 2019 is on track to be the deadliest year on Alabama waterways in 20 years.
Senior Trooper Jeffrey Reaves spends his days patrolling Alabama waterways. He says the increase in boating accidents and fatalities has been alarming.
“It does make you try to be a little bit more on the guard. Look a little tighter at things. Look a little closer at things. Pay a little bit more attention than you would have before,” says Sr. Trooper Jeffery Reaves.
According to the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency, there have been 25 boating-related deaths this year. Reaves says there is no way to attribute the rise in accidents in 2019 to one cause.
“The little things can mean a lot as we all know and when you get complacent those little things are the first thing to go,” says Reaves.
Reaves says the water can be unforgiving and the last thing you want to do is forget a piece of safety equipment when you need it most.
“Think about the fire extinguisher. Think about how many life jackets you have. Is the shut off switch on the boat serviceable?” says Reaves.
Reaves believes complacency is to blame for what he believes are preventable accidents.
“No one does think that kinda things gonna happen to you and usually when it does happen you think that it’s not gonna happen to me all the way until it does, and then its too late,” says Reaves.
Reaves says he doesn’t have access to the number of boats registered, but there seems to be an increase in traffic.
“I know I’ve seen more people on the river this year than I saw last year, so it may have something to do with it. I don’t actually think it’s one thing. I think it’s many things,” says Reaves.
Reaves says marine patrol does their best to be vigilant on the waters, but preventing accidents comes down to each boater realizing the seriousness of water safety for themselves and others.
Last year Alabama saw this many deaths on its waterways was in 1998 when 32 were killed statewide.