It seems common knowledge that everyone on the water should wear a life jacket. The message is proclaimed loudly and clearly on virtually all state and federal outdoor recreation websites and on printed material provided from state agencies and boat dealers. And yet the message is ignored. People keep dying in recreational boating accidents.
According to Coast Guard statistics, boat safety is a national problem. In 2009, 12.7 million boats were registered in the U.S., and 82 million Americans participated in recreational boating. Of those, 709 died in boating accidents. Here are the chilling numbers: 84 percent of the victims were not wearing life jackets; 90 percent of the boat operators in those accidents had not received any boating safety instruction; and alcohol was a factor in 16 percent of the deaths.
So if you plan to be on the water this year and don't want to become a statistic, follow three simple rules.
1. Always wear a life jacket, even while on the dock before boarding. It's not unheard of to slip and fall between the dock and the boat.
2. Take a course in boat safety. Inquire about boat safety classes at your state natural resource agency or a reputable boat dealer. And if you are a guest on a boat, ask if the skipper has had a boat safety course.
3. Save the alcohol for after the boat trip. Ice-cold soft drinks taste great on the water.
Be smart. Make 2012 a safe year on the water.
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