Coast Guard urges boating safety for 4th of July holiday

Southeastern Coast Guard NewsJACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Coast Guard is urging marines to exercise safe practices while recreating on the water during this Fourth of July holiday.

The week of July Fourth experiences a high number of boaters taking to the water. The Coast Guard advises the public to take responsibility for their safety on the water. Boaters should be aware of and obey all federal and state regulations for recreational boating and navigation.

The Coast Guard would like to remind boaters to:

Wear a personal floatation device/life jacket at all times — The law states you must have a PFD for every person on board, but the Coast Guard suggests you go one step further and wear your PFD at all times when boating. It is much more difficult to locate and put on a life jacket the moment an accident occurs.

Seventy percent of all boating accident victims drowned, and of those, 84 percent were not reported as wearing a life jacket.

File a float plan and leave it with someone who is not recreating on the water — A float plan is a lifesaving document reminding others where you plan on boating, for how long, and who you are going with. It can assist emergency responders with locating a distressed mariner.

Have a marine band radio and visual distress signals on board— While many boaters rely on cell phones for emergency communications on the water, VHF-FM radios are much more reliable in the marine environment. When a mayday is broadcast over VHF-FM Channel 16, the international hailing and distress frequency, multiple response agencies and other nearby boaters can hear the distress call and offer immediate assistance. Additionally, in accordance with federal law, recreational boats 16-feet and longer are required to carry visual distress signals such as flares, smoke signals or non-pyrotechnic devices. State and local laws may require further safety equipment.

Have a registered 406MHz Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon — When a 406 MHz beacon signal is received, search and rescue personnel can retrieve information from a registration database. This includes the beacon owner’s contact information, emergency contact information, and vessel/aircraft identifying characteristics. Having this information allows the Coast Guard, or other rescue personnel, to respond appropriately.

One third of all recreational boating fatalities involves the use of alcohol. Florida has the second highest “alcohol” related boating accidents in the country based upon the U.S. Department of Transportation statistics.

Do not boat under the influence of alcohol — Alcohol affects judgment, vision, balance and coordination. Factor in boat motion, vibration, engine noise, sun, wind and spray and a drinker’s impairment is accelerated.

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