Coast Guard kicks off National Safe Boating Week

PORTSMOUTH, Va. — The Coast Guard is urging boaters to be safe on the water heading into National Safe Boating Week, which begins Saturday and runs through Memorial Day weekend.

National Safe Boating Week is an annual observance week that kicks-off of the Safe Boating Campaign, a global awareness effort that encourages boaters to prioritize safety on the water.

The Coast Guard released of a summary of the 2022 recreational boating incidents on May 11, revealing there were 636 boating fatalities nationwide in 2022, a 3.3 percent decrease from the 658 deaths in 2021.

Alcohol continued to be the leading known contributing factor in fatal boating accidents in 2022, accounting for 88 deaths, or 16 percent of total fatalities.

Operator inattention, operator inexperience, improper lookout, excessive speed, and machinery failure ranked as the top five primary contributing factors in accidents.

“During the boating season it’s important to be safe any time you are on the water, which means having safe boating practices and being prepared for the unexpected,” said Ethan Coble, the Coast Guard 5th District recreational boating program specialist. “One of simplest ways to be safe on the water is to always wear a life jacket, which can significantly increase chances for survival in a maritime emergency. We also urge mariners to file float plans and to communicate with a VHF radio, as well as always boat responsibly.”

Here are some tips boaters can use to have a safe and fun summer on the water:

Always wear a life jacket. The Coast Guard reminds boaters to ensure life jackets are serviceable, properly sized, correctly fastened, and suitable for your activity. Where the cause of death was known, 75 percent of fatal boating incident victims drowned. Of those drowning victims with reported life jacket usage, 85 percent were not wearing a life jacket.
Boat sober. It is illegal to operate a boat while under the influence of alcohol or drugs in every state. Penalties for violating BUI/BWI laws can include large fines, suspension or revocation of boat operator privileges, and jail terms.
Check the weather before going out on the water. Know your weather limitations – what your boat can handle and what it can’t. Check the weather for storms, tides, currents, and winds.
Have an EPIRB. Always go out with an Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon. Own it, know it, and register it. An EPIRB is a device that is designed to transmit a distress signal if you get into trouble. No matter where you are in the world, an EPIRB sends a signal to emergency responders through a satellite system.
File a float plan! A float plan is telling someone where you are going and when you plan to return. A float plan should be given to a friend or family member and includes a description of your boat, what is on board and a description of the safety equipment you are carrying. If you change plans mid-voyage, let someone know!
Always take a marine radio. A VHF-FM radio is the best method of communication while on the water. Although cell phones are a good backup, they can be unreliable due to gaps in coverage area and the inevitable dead battery.

The full 2022 Recreational Boating Statistics report should be available to the public on June 1, 2023 at The report will be accessible under the “Statistics” menu selection and the “Accident Statistics” submenu selection.

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