Coast Guard Emphasizes Boating Safety this Holiday Weekend

PORTSMOUTH, Va.- With one of the busiest recreational boating weekends on the horizon, the Coast Guard, Coast Guard Auxiliary, U.S. Power Squadrons and boating agencies from New Jersey to North Carolina are working together to remind boaters that following basic safety precautions can ensure a safe, enjoyable Labor Day weekend on the water.

“If we could communicate two messages,” said Dennis Sens, the Fifth Coast Guard District’s recreational boating specialist, “It would be to wear your lifejacket and be totally aware-at all times-of what’s going on around you. It’s usually what you don’t see that you hit or hits you. On the water, it’s paramount to be the prudent mariner.”

According to the Coast Guard’s 2007 Recreational Boating Statistics, careless and reckless operation and operator inattention were among the leading contributing factors to all accidents. Drowning was reported as the cause of death for two-thirds of all fatalities, and approximately 90 percent of those who drowned were not wearing life jackets.

“Lifejackets, for most drowning victims, would have been the deciding, life-saving factor that could have prevented the loss of life,” emphasizes Sens.

To enjoy a safe day on the water, the Coast Guard also suggests that boaters should:

* Be aware of weather and water conditions;

* Never boat or paddle alone–file a float plan to let others know where you are going;

* Be cautious–do not exceed your ability to handle your vessel;

* Know that alcohol and drugs contribute to accidents and,

* Be constantly aware of other vessels in the immediate area.

Sens also encourages coastal and off-shore recreational boaters as well as sea kayakers to carry a VHF marine radio, either a fixed system or handheld unit, and be familiar with its operation and radio procedures.

“The VHF radio, monitored on channel 16, is your gateway to communicating with the Coast Guard or other vessels in your area,” explains Sens. “It can be a life saver in a distress situation.”

For many, the boating season is now slowing down, and Sens strongly recommends that all boaters utilize the off-season to take a recreational boating safety course. Courses are offered either through their respective state, with the Coast Guard Auxiliary, or through the U.S. Power Squadrons, the latter two of which can be accessed at http://uscgaux.org/ or http://usps.org/. Additional course information is available through the BOAT/U.S. Foundation at 1-800-336-BOAT.

For additional boating safety tips, boaters can access the Coast Guard’s Boating Safety Web site at www.uscgboating.org.

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