Fourth of July Boating and Paddling Safety

BOSTON – The Fourth of July holiday is not only the busiest boating period of the year, but it also holds the distinction of being the deadliest, both nationwide and in the Northeast.

“The Fourth of July holiday period the deadliest boating and paddling holiday of the year,” said Al Johnson, recreational boating safety specialist for the First Coast Guard District headquarters in Boston. “This year, with the holiday falling mid-week and the celebration period extended, the Coast Guard is asking all boaters and paddlers to maximize their safety efforts and be aware, be alert and, above all, stay alive.”

In the Northeast, on average 50 victims have died annually in recreational boating and paddling accidents over the past nine years; of these, 83% were not wearing a lifejacket.

“Your chance for survival usually comes down to one thing: having your life jacket on when you need it,” Johnson said. “The misconception persists that you can put on a life jacket once you’re in the water. It is extremely difficult to do, and unfortunately for most people immobilized by the shock of sudden immersion, it can be tragically impossible.”

The holiday period also brings an increase in alcohol usage. While overall alcohol is involved in just over a quarter of annual fatal accidents in the Northeast, it jumps to over 42% during the Fourth of July.

Johnson recommends that all boaters and paddlers:

* Be aware of current and forecasted weather and water conditions
* Never boat or paddle alone; let others now where you’re going
* Always wear a Coast Guard approved life jacket
* Practice prudent seamanship – boaters should not exceed their own ability
* Recognize the danger posed by alcohol and drugs and always boat sober

“It’s the responsibility of all us who use our waterways to boat and paddle sober and safely,” said Johnson. “Your life and the lives of your family and friends depend on it.”

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