2010 National Safe Boating Week reminds boaters to “Wear It!”

NEW ORLEANS – While recreational boating is enjoyed safely by thousands every year, in 2010, there may still be close to 700 fatalities from boating accidents.  With this statistic in mind, the Coast Guard is again encouraging boaters to “Wear It!” during National Safe Boating Week May 22-28.

Wearing a life jacket can make the difference between life and death.  According to 2008 Coast Guard statistics, 90 percent of boaters who drowned were not wearing life jackets.

Additionally in 2008:

  • The Coast Guard recorded nearly 5,000 accidents that involved 709 deaths, 3,331 injuries, and approximately $54 million of property damage;
  • Only 10 percent of deaths occurred on boats where the operator had received boating safety instruction;
  • Seven out of every 10 boaters who drowned were using boats less than 21 feet in length;
  • Eleven children under age 13 lost their lives while boating in 2008; 63 percent of those deaths were from drowning.

This means that more than 400 boaters died unexpectedly because they were uninformed or simply not in the habit of taking the significant safety precaution of wearing their life jacket. It is human nature to think it can’t happen to me — but it can. The majority of people who drown in boating accidents know how to swim, but become incapacitated in the water and sometimes they are injured or unconscious. Others develop hypothermia or become exhausted. Some are weighed down by clothing.

An accident usually happens without warning. Usually after the accident, the life jackets are not within reach — in cabinets, trapped under the vessel, floating far away in the water.

Other reasons why people don’t wear a life jacket are that it is too hot, or it will mess up their tan line, or they are simply not comfortable. Many people don’t realize the variety of new life jackets that are on the market — belt packs and other inflatable styles that are low profile and light weight.

“It may be tempting to toss a lifejacket in the cabin or use it as a seat cushion, but making sure you and your passengers are wearing a lifejacket is the single most important boating safety decision you can make,” said Coast Guard Chief Warrant Officer William A. Gordon, Coast Guard District Eight Operations Training Officer. “Contemporary life jackets are available in a wide variety of and most are thin and flexible; others are inflatable and very compact and comfortable.”

In addition to wearing life jackets and having the required safety equipment, boaters should create a float plan that lets others know where they are going and when they plan on returning.  A copy of the float plan should be left with a friend, relative or local marina before heading out on the water.  If a boater has an emergency, the information will be available to local authorities and the Coast Guard.  This step can save valuable time if a search and rescue effort is needed.

Boaters should also take the following steps to ensure they are ready for summer on the water:

  • ALWAYS wear a properly fitted Coast Guard-approved life jacket.
  • Be aware of weather and water conditions.
  • Never go boating alone.
  • Be cautious – do not exceed your ability or the capability of your vessel.
  • Know that alcohol and drugs contribute to accidents. DO NOT DRINK AND BOAT!
  • Be constantly aware of other vessels in the immediate area.
  • Have a working VHF marine band radio, or Emergency Positioning Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB) onboard.  A cell phone can be a viable second device, but should not replace a working VHF marine band radio or EPIRB.

The Coast Guard also strongly recommends all boaters and paddlers take a recreational boating safety course to enhance their navigational skills. (Only 10 percent of deaths occurred on boats where the operator had received boating safety instruction.) Courses are offered through a boaters respective state, or with the Coast Guard Auxiliary or the U.S. Power Squadrons, both of which can be accessed through http://uscgaux.org/ or http://usps.org/. Additional course information is available through the BOAT/U.S. Foundation at 1-800-336-BOAT.

Additional safe boating information can be found at the following Web sites:

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