National Safe Boating Week starts Saturday

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The 2012 National Safe Boating Week campaign starts Saturday with Coast Guard Auxiliary units promoting recreational boating safety around the country.

The campaign, which runs through May 25, is dedicated to helping boaters understand the need for boating education and vessel safety checks, as well as the importance of wearing life jackets while boating.

National Safe Boating Week gives us an opportunity to reflect on the safe operation of boats on the water. The incidents we study bring home the need for simple safety precautions while under way,” Coast Guard Auxiliary national commodore Jim Vass said in a statement.

According to a National Association of State Boating Law Administrators report, total boating fatalities in 2010 dropped to 672, the lowest number on record. The study also found that almost 75 percent of all fatal boating accident victims drowned and that, of those, 88 percent were not wearing life jackets.

There were 3,153 injuries and about $35.5 million of property damage in 2010 for recreational boaters. Operator inattention, improper lookout, operator inexperience, excessive speed and alcohol use rank as the top five primary contributing factors in accidents.

“We encourage everyone to wear their life jackets and use a ‘kill switch’ while boating,” Vass said. “Frequently we see young children in life jackets, but their parents are not wearing them. All of us need to wear a life jacket to protect ourselves and set a good example for others.”

Coast Guard Auxiliary flotillas around the country will be hosting special events to reinforce the safe boating message during National Safe Boating Week, including free vessel safety checks at local marinas, boating safety classes and other special events.