by Michael E. McGrath
USCG Auxiliary Division 3 Commander
The U.S. Coast Guard Accident Statistics has identified New York state with one of the highest number of accidents and fatalities in 2009. Although National Safe Boating Week, held on Memorial Day weekend, is the traditional start of the recreational boating season, spring-breakers and eager boaters often take to the water early. The U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary Division, 3-9 Eastern Region, which serves the Western New York area, encourages all boaters to always wear a life jacket each and every time they are on the water.
Requests have been made to Western New York cities, towns and villages to proclaim the Week of May 21-27, as Safe Boating Week.
Recreational boating is fun and enjoyable, and we are fortunate that we have sufficient resources to accommodate the wide variety of pleasure boating demands. However, our waterways can become crowded at times and be a place of chaos and confusion. While being a marvelous source of recreation, boating, to the unprepared, can be a risky sport. Not knowing or obeying the navigation rules or the nautical "Rules of the Road," drinking alcohol or taking drugs while operating a boat, or choosing not to wear your life jacket when doing so is clearly not the smart thing to do. All are examples of human error or a lack of proper judgment. One particular behavior that can reduce the number of boaters who lose their lives by drowning each year by approximately 80 percent is the wearing of a lifejacket. It is a simple task that has the potential to reduce terrible loss in lives.
Knowledge and skills are important in reducing human error and improving judgment. Boaters should take a boater safety course that is offered in the area, not only because of being mandatory for the operation of personal water crafts in New York state, but for a refresher of safety on the water. If people are aware of the risk, they are likely to take the precautionary measures to protect themselves and their friends and family. That is why we must continue to spread the messages of boating safety, not only during National Safe Boating Week but also throughout the entire year.
Points to ponder for safe boating in 2011:
•On average, 700 people die each year in boating-related accidents in the U.S.; approximately 70 percent of these are fatalities caused by drowning.
•The vast majority of these accidents are caused by human error or poor judgment and not by the boat, equipment, or environmental factors.
•A significant number of boaters who lose their lives by drowning each year would be alive today had they worn their life jackets.
• Today's life jackets are more comfortable, more attractive, and more wearable than styles of years past and deserve a fresh look by today's boating public.
Have a great, safe boating season.