Is Your Life Worth More than $15.00?

U.S. Coast Guard approved life jackets range in price from as low as $15.00 to about $400.00 for the top of the line inflatable, although, even the most expensive life jacket is worthless if it is not worn.

With the long Fourth of July holiday just a few days away the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary points out that life jacket wear is “critical” to surviving a boating accident. Ninety percent of boaters who drown were not wearing their life jackets, and according to Coast Guard statistics life jackets could prevent approximately two-thirds of all boating-related drownings of children ages 14 and under. Holiday weekends are especially dangerous times for boating. In California for example, nearly 20% of all boating accidents occur during the three summer holiday weekends of Memorial Day, July 4th and Labor Day, according to the California Department of Boating and Waterways (DBW). Not wearing life jackets increases that danger.

Most boating accidents are caused by operator inattention, inexperience, and speeding resulting in collisions. Remembering and following a few simple boating rules of the road, such as keeping a sharp lookout for other boat traffic, can help prevent collisions on congested waterways.

In congested areas, intoxicated operators and passengers increase the already high risk of accident. Alcohol and boating are a deadly mix, especially when combined with stressors in the marine environment, such as sun, glare, wind, heat, and boat and engine noise. Last year, 21% of boating fatalities were alcohol related, and half of those who died were passengers whose intoxication contributed to their deaths, according to the DBW.

Those who recreate on rivers and lakes, especially kayakers and other paddle craft operators, should be aware that in some areas the water is still cold from late snow melt. The current may be swift, strong and not always visible. River conditions can change quickly due to weather and water releases, resulting in increased hazard.

Parents should keep a watchful eye on children playing in or around the water, and are advised to put properly fitting Coast Guard approved life jackets on little ones when they’re wading as an added safety measure. Adults should also take precautions for their own safety. A commonly seen accident scenario, parents insure the children are wearing life jackets, but neglect to wear life jackets themselves, instead relying on their swimming ability to keep them safe.

Swimming out too far, or attempting to retrieve gear in the water, and being swept away by currents, are all scenarios when the persons would have survived if they had been wearing their life jackets.

The July 4th weekend could be safer this year if boaters remember to maintain a proper lookout, wear their life jackets, and don’t boat under the influence of alcohol.

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