NEW ORLEANS — The Coast Guard is reminding the public to exercise safe boating as the summer season gets started.
The week of July Fourth typically experiences a high number of boaters taking to the water. The Coast Guard advises the public to take responsibility for their safety on the lakes, inland rivers and along the Gulf Coast. Boaters should be aware of, and obey, all federal and state regulations for recreational boating and navigation.
Coast Guard statistics for calendar year 2011 show:
- 4,588 accidents that involved 758 deaths, 3,081 injuries and approximately $52 million in damage to property as a result of recreational boating accidents.
- Seventy percent of all fatal boating accident victims drowned, and of those, 84 percent were not reported as wearing a life jacket.
- Only 11 percent of deaths occurred on boats where the operator had received boating safety instruction. Only seven percent of deaths occurred on vessels where the operator had received boating safety instruction from the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators.
- Fifteen children under age 13 lost their lives while boating in 2011. Sixty percent of children who died in 2011 died from drowning.
- Approximately 16 percent of all loss-of-life cases were the result of boating under the influence.
All boaters should:
- Always wear a life jacket. Since there is little time to reach for stowed vests when accidents occur, wearing one at all times reduces your risk of drowning. Federal law requires you to have a personal floatation device on board for each passenger.
- Have a VHF-FM marine-band radio on board. If you are in distress, you can reach the Coast Guard on marine-band channel 16, the distress channel. The Coast Guard, other rescue agencies and other boaters monitor marine-band radios 24/7, which increases the number of people who can respond. Though cell phones are better than no communication device at all, they tend to have gaps in coverage while on the water and have limited battery life.
- Have a float plan. A float plan is simply letting family family and friends know where you are going and your expected time of return. File a float plan with someone who is not getting underway with you and stick to the plan. If you change plans, contact the person. A float plan assists responders in the search of an overdue boater who may be in distress.
"We urge boaters all the time, and especially, the Fourth of July, to wear their life jackets, let someone know where you're going, and have a marine-band radio to call if you need help," said Capt. Ed Cubanski, chief of incident management for the 8th Coast Guard District. "With our Rescue 21 system, if you call channel 16 on a marine-band radio, we can at least get a bearing to the boater's distress location within 20 miles offshore, which helps responders expedite our search and rescue efforts."
For more boating information, go to http://www.uscgboating.org/.
For media inquiries or additional boating safety information, contact your local Coast Guard unit or the 8th District External Affairs Office at (504) 671-2020.