Summer has been relatively safe on Lake Tahoe

Talk to U.S. Coast Guard Executive Petty Officer Josh Martin about boating safety on Lake Tahoe this summer and the phrase "knock on wood" comes up frequently.

This summer has been a relatively safe one on the lake so far, with two fatalities reported. That compares to eight, nine and seven fatalities, respectively, for the 2005, 2006 and 2007 boating seasons.

"This is so far, the least amount of fatalities we've had on the lake in the last several years," said Martin, noting that ideally there wouldn't be any fatalities.

"This is better than the last three years, knock on wood," he added.

Several factors may have contributed to the better-than-usual safety record thus far. A cold spring may have kept boaters off the lake until later in the season, Martin said. The sluggish economy and the high price of gas may also have kept boaters away.

And the Coast Guard has stepped up its boater-education efforts this year, with more officers on the lake from the north to south shores.

The Coast Guard has the unique authority to stop boaters at any time and go on board for a safety inspection, Martin said. As of last week, Coast Guard officers had done so 174 times at Lake Tahoe this summer.

"Our main goal is to promote safety and education," Martin said.

In addition to the two fatalities, the Coast Guard has handled 12 person-in-the-water cases, six vessels taking on water, two boat fires, and five capsized vessels this year.

As of Tuesday, the agency had made no arrests for boating under the influence this season at Lake Tahoe.

- Contact reporter Elaine Goodman at egoodman@tahoedailytribune.com.

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