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Coast Guard plans holiday weekend enforcement effort

The Coast Guard is teaming up with state and local authorities during Fourth of July festivities around the country in an effort to keep the holiday, historically known for being the busiest and deadliest boating period, safe for everyone on the water.

Multiple Coast Guard crews will be on the water throughout the holiday weekend, boarding recreational vessels to ensure that they have the proper safety gear and the boat operator is not boating under the influence of drugs or alcohol; conducting security patrols and vessel escorts; enforcing safety and security zones; and responding to search-and-rescue cases as necessary.

“We’ll be out in full force doing everything we can to keep people safe on the water,” says Petty Officer 2ndClass Thomas Cirelli, a maritime enforcement specialist at Coast Guard Station Boston. “Everyone on the water can also help keep themselves and those around them safe by not operating a boat under the influence, wearing their life jacket and observing the safety zones put in place by the Coast Guard.”

Drowning was the No. 1 cause of death on the water nationwide in 2010. Of the 484 people who drowned, 395 were not wearing a life jacket.

“Wearing your life jacket is absolutely essential,” Cirelli says. “It’s not a guarantee, but it greatly improves your chances of survival.”

Alcohol, the leading factor in nearly 20 percent of boating deaths, was to blame for 126 deaths and 293 injures on the water nationwide last year. In New England, 11 deaths and 14 injuries attributable to alcohol use were reported in 2010.

“One thing people may not consider when they’re out enjoying a nice, sunny day on the water is how much quicker their body becomes dehydrated,” Cirelli says. “The faster your body is depleted of water, the faster you become intoxicated. It may not seem like you’ve had too much to drink, but in the hot sun it doesn’t take much to put you over the legal limit and impair your ability to safely drive a boat.”