Northeast sees record deaths among boaters during 2010

BOSTON—Twenty-one recreational boaters and paddlers have died in the Northeast this year, the highest recorded number.

Six kayakers and five canoeists accounted for 11 fatalities while motorized vessels accounted for the remaining fatalities.

Nationwide, an average of 700 people die every year in boating and paddling accidents. Close to 70 percent drown, and of that 70 percent, almost 90 percent were not wearing a life jacket.

“The single most important piece of survival equipment on the water is your life jacket,” said Al Johnson, the recreational boating safety specialist for the First Coast Guard District.

“Should a crisis occur and you find yourself in the water, your chances of surviving are better if you’re wearing a life jacket, especially in the cold waters of the Northeast. The immediate, debilitating effect of the shock from cold water, coupled with the involuntary aspiration of water, commences the drowning process. Even the strongest swimmers need a life jacket while their bodies stabilize. It’s plain and simple, when you need your life jacket, you need it on.”

The North American Safe Boating Campaign, an annual campaign to raise awareness that wearing life jackets saves lives, kicks off with the North American Safe Boating Week on Saturday and runs through Friday. The 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.

“Sadly, during the past decade on the waters of the Northeast, we’ve averaged 50 to 53 boating and paddling fatalities per year,” Johnson said. “The majority of these deaths could have been prevented if the victim had worn a life jacket. When you have this many predictable deaths that are so easily preventable, it’s not just sad. It’s tragic.”

In addition to the Safe Boating Campaign, the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary and U.S. Power Squadrons Vessel Safety Check Mega Weeks begin Saturday and run through July 11. For a free Vessel Safety Check to ensure your vessel is safe and properly equipped, visit www.vesselsafetycheck.org to contact a local Vessel Examiner.

For more details about the 2010 North American Safe Boating Campaign log on to: 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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