Coast Guard ramps up safety patrols during July 4th weekend

SAN FRANCISCO BAY - A Coast Guard crew aboard a 25-foot Response Boat, from Station Golden Gate, performs a vessel safety check on a recreational boat, Thursday, Feb. 10, 2011, during a law enforcement patrol. Each year the station performs approximately 600 search and rescue cases and approximately 300 law enforcement boardings, making Station Golden Gate the busiest station on the West Coast. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Erik Swanson.

A Coast Guard crew aboard a 25-foot Response Boat, from Station Golden Gate, performs a vessel safety check on a recreational boat during a law enforcement patrol.  U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Erik Swanson.

ALAMEDA, Calif. — Coast Guard and Coast Guard Auxiliary crews throughout California will increase boating safety patrols during the July 4th holiday weekend in support of Operation Dry Water, a nationwide effort to enforce Boating Under the Influence (BUI) laws.

Operation Dry Water is aimed at raising awareness of the dangers of operating under the influence to help decrease the number of recreational boating accidents and deaths. It is illegal to operate a boat while under the influence of alcohol or drugs in every state. Penalties for violating BUI laws include large fines, suspension or revocation of boat operator privileges and jail terms.

From Saturday through Monday, boaters can expect increased presence from the Coast Guard and Coast Guard Auxiliary who will be paying particular attention to recreational boating safety this weekend. The Auxiliary will be performing dockside safety equipment inspections, while the Coast Guard and its local law enforcement partners will be conducting boating safety boardings.

“While we want you to enjoy your July 4th holiday, we want you to do so safely and responsibly,” said Rear Adm. Andrew Sugimoto, commander, Eleventh Coast Guard District. “We urge boaters to take some simple precautions, such as wearing a life jacket, filing a float plan and limiting alcohol consumption to ensure a safe and memorable experience.”

California has the fourth largest number of recreational boats in the country and has the second highest number of boating-related accidents and deaths, according to the Coast Guard’s 2021 statistics.

Nationwide, 658 people died and 2,641 were injured in boating and paddling accidents in 2021. Approximately 74 percent drowned, and more than 73 percent of those people were not wearing a life jacket. Alcohol use is the lead contributing factor in fatal boating accidents, accounting for 13 percent of all reported fatalities.

The Coast Guard offers the following tips to help you enjoy a safe time on the water:

  • Wear a life jacket. Make sure that there is at least one properly-fitted life jacket for every passenger and that the life jackets are readily accessible if not worn. All children under 13 must wear a life jacket at all times.
  • Don’t drink and boat. Aside from wearing a life jacket, not drinking and boating is one of the easiest ways to prevent accidental deaths on the water. People operating vessels under the influence of alcohol, drugs or impairing medication pose a serious threat to you and anyone else aboard.
  • File a float plan. Before you get underway, leave information about your trip with a family member or a friend on shore. Include information that would help rescuers in case of an emergency—how many people on board, where you are going, how long you will be out, and a description of your boat.
  • Inspect your boat and equipment. Make sure your navigation equipment—particularly your navigational lights, if you plan to be out at night—is in good working order. Carry fire extinguishers, a first aid kit, charts of the area and an anchor. Get a free safety inspection from the Coast Guard Auxiliary to make sure you have all the gear and safety equipment required by your state and federal laws.
  • Equip your boat with an Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB). An EPIRB is a safety device that automatically transmits an emergency signal when it is placed or floating in the upright position. The signal allows the Coast Guard and other agencies to pinpoint your location.
  • Carry a portable weatherproof marine band radio. Cell phones may go out of range or lose battery power when needed most. The Coast Guard, other agencies, and other boaters monitor marine band radios, increasing the number of people who can respond if you’re in trouble.
  • Take a boating safety course. Approximately 80 percent of boating deaths occur on boats where the operator had no formal boating safety instruction. The Coast Guard recommends that all boaters take a safety class and a refresher every five years. The Coast Guard Auxiliary offers low-cost boating safety courses.
  • Check the weather. Check daily weather reports, or listen to a marine band radio, for sudden changes in weather conditions.
  • Download the Coast Guard Boating Safety app. You can file a float plan, request assistance, request a vessel safety check, and report pollution and hazards to navigation.

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