Coast Guard announces life jacket awareness campaign, seeks to reduce deaths

BOSTON – The North American Safe Boating Campaign, an annual campaign that raises life jacket awareness, kicks off with the North American Safe Boating Week Saturday, May 16, and runs through Friday, May 22.

In the Coast Guard’s First District, which stretches from Maine to New Jersey, 55 people died in boating and paddling accidents in 2008. Of those, 54 were not wearing life jackets.

“The single most important piece of survival equipment on the water is your life jacket,” said Al Johnson, the Coast Guard’s First District recreational boating safety specialist. “What’s important for people to realize is that a crisis can occur on the water at any time.”

Johnson said it is not enough just to bring a life jacket along.

“It’s plain and simple, when you need your life jacket, you need it on,” he said.

He said during the past decade, the First District has seen an average of 50 boating and paddling fatalities per year. The majority, he said, could have been prevented if the victim had worn a life jacket.

“When you have this many deaths, that are so easily preventable, it’s tragic,” he said.

The national campaign, while strongly emphasizing that life jackets save lives, also stresses that boating education, properly maintained boats and equipment, and safe and sober boating and paddling all contribute to saving lives.

Additionally, the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary and U.S. Power Squadrons have announced the start of their Vessel Safety Check Mega Weeks, May 16 through July 5. For a free vessel safety check, contact a local vessel examiner at www.vesselsafetycheck.org

For more details about the 2009 North American Safe Boating Campaign log onto: www.safeboatingcampaign.com

To learn more about boating and paddling safety, visit the following Web sites:

U.S. Coast Guard Office of Boating Safety: www.uscgboating.org

National Safe Boating Council: www.safeboatingcouncil.org

National Association of State Boating Law Administrators: www.nasbla.org

U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary: www.cgaux.org

United States Power Squadrons: www.usps.org

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