A safety warning before the long holiday weekend


SEPT. 2 — With Labor Day weekend one of the busiest boating holidays of the year, the Coast Guard issued a statement calling for increased boating safety, asking, among other things, that boaters wear PFDs, and not operate a vessel while under the influence of alcohol.

According to a recent Coast Guard report, 431 boaters died in 2004 because they weren’t wearing a PFD. Of the 676 boating-related fatalities last year, 72 percent were apparently caused by drowning, the Coast Guard says. Ninety-percent of those who drowned were not wearing a PFD.

“Accidents on the water can happen quickly and there’s rarely time to reach stowed life jackets,” Capt. James Hass, acting director of Coast Guard operations policy, says in the statement. “The sad truth is that many of these injuries and fatalities could have been avoided by wearing a life jacket.”

Coast Guard statistics also show that one-third of boating fatalities last year were alcohol related. Drinking while boating is potentially more dangerous than drinking while driving “because the sun, wind, noise, vibration and motion intensify the effect of alcohol and can slow reaction times and impair vision,” the Coast Guard says. The statement reminds boaters that a blood alcohol content of .08 or higher is illegal on federal waters and in all states.

“People should remember that boating is even more complicated than driving a car. So if you wouldn’t drive under the influence, why would you boat under the influence?” Hass asks.

In addition, the Coast Guard urges boaters to annually have their vessels inspected by a local Coast Guard Auxiliary, a U.S. Power Squadron or a state boating agency’s vessel examiner.

For more information on boating responsibly, go to the Coast Guard’s boating safety Web site or call (800) 368-5647.

Jason Fell