SOUTHEASTERN NORTH CAROLINA (WECT) - It’s National Safe Boating Week and the Coast Guard has some tips to keep you and your loved ones safe while enjoying the water this Memorial Day weekend.
Four out of five boating accident victims drown and over 84% of those victims were not wearing life jackets, according to a study done by the U.S. Coast Guard. In 2017, the Coast Guard counted over 4,000 boating accidents that involved 658 deaths and nearly 3,000 injuries.
There are some simple things you can do to put safety first while boating:
1. Wear a life jacket, make sure it’s U.S. Coast Guard approved, and appropriate for your water activity.
“If you do get in trouble, if you do find your self in the water, you have an 85-percent higher chance of survival and us [Coast Guard] being able to find you when we’re searching for you if you’re wearing a life jacket," says Captain Bion Stewart, commander of Sector North Carolina U.S. Coast Guard.
2. Know state boating laws.
3. Make sure your boat is prepared.
“It’s really important to understand your vessel," says Capt. Stewart. "Understand safe practices on the water particularly for folks that are new to boating. Doing Coast Guard Auxiliary or power squadron type of a class can be really really helpful and helping you understand not only the risk, but what to do when things actually kind of go the wrong way.”
4. Know what your boat can handle. How many people or items can your boat hold? If you have too much, the boat may become unstable and could capsize.
“If you overload a vessel, you actually induce a lot of instability to that vessel," says Capt. Stewart. "Whether it’s a wake from another boat or have a strong gust of wind or you run into some swells that you maybe didn’t predict, can cause that boat to flip over, capsize and really that’s when peoples lives are really in danger.”
5. Stay up to date on the forecast. Be sure to download the WECT First Alert Weather App to get the latest and up-to-date information when it comes to the forecast.
6. Don’t drink while you boat. Alcohol was listed in 15% of boating deaths in 2016.
“One thing we are concerned about on holiday weekends is always boating and drinking," says Capt. Stewart. "Judgment goes out the window when folks have had a little too much to drink and the dangers of having an accident on the water with increased density of traffic and you introduce alcohol into the mix and it can create some serious problems.”
The best way to contact the Coast Guard if you’re in need is by VHF Marine Radio, but there is also a free app available for smart devices. There you can not only contact the Coast Guard, but you can find boating information and rules along with several other helpful tools.
For more tips on safe boating, click here.