Coast Guard warns boating under the influence dangers, Memorial Day weekend safety

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NEW ORLEANS — The Coast Guard would like to warn boaters of the dangers of boating under the influence during this final day of National Safe Boating Week.

In every state, it is illegal to operate a boat while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The Coast Guard also enforces a federal law that prohibits BUI. This law pertains to all boats (from canoes and rowboats to the largest ships) — and includes foreign vessels that operate in U.S. waters, as well as U.S. vessels on the high seas. Penalties can include large fines, suspension or revocation of boat operator privileges, and jail terms.

A boater is likely to become impaired more quickly than a driver, drink for drink. Alcohol affects judgment, vision, balance and coordination. These impairments increase the likelihood of accidents afloat – for both passengers and boat operators. Alcohol use is the leading contributing factor in fatal boating accidents; it was listed as the leading factor in 17 percent of deaths. More than half the victims capsized their boats and/or fell overboard.

As Memorial Day kicks off the summer boating season along the Gulf Coast, inland lakes and rivers, the Coast Guard reminds boaters and water enthusiasts to take the following steps:

  1. Take a boating safety course. Research shows that boaters believe they are boating safely if they have proper equipment, though statistics show that safe boating is really a matter of their own behavior.
  2.  Get a Vessel Safety Check. VSCs ensure your boat is properly equipped and compliant with the law.
  3. Have a marine-band radio on board. With marine-band radios set to channel 16, a boater is only a call away from help.
  4. File a float plan. Like a life jacket, a float plan is a life-saving device on paper, which can make the difference in rescue and response time in the event of an emergency.
  5. Have Signal devices. Day and night flares as well as emergency position indicating radio beacons are recommended for alerting first responders.
  6. Wear it! Always wear a life jacket. Wear a life jacket at all times on the boat or in the water, since there is little time to reach for stowed vests when accidents occur.

“Across our area of responsibility, 10 people lost their lives this month, and four died in the month of April. Every life lost is a tragic and sober reminder to take the safety of yourself, family and friends, while out on the water, extremely seriously,” said Rear Adm. Kevin S. Cook, commander, 8th Coast Guard District. “The Coast Guard understands there is sometimes a rush to get underway for leisure, fishing or kayaking, but your loved ones will appreciate the extra preparation when you return home safe.”

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