RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) – As water temperatures warm along with hotter afternoons in central Virginia, you may be ready to take the boat out for its first spin of the year over the long holiday weekend. The week leading up to Memorial Day this year is National Safe Boating Week, as promoted by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
With so many waterways in the Commonwealth, many Virginians enjoy using boats for both leisure and labor. But just as with any vehicle, boats come with similar hazards. Probably the most important boating safety tip is akin to wearing a seat-belt in a car with airbags. It’s wearing a life-vest (and buckling up while seated on the boat). The National Safe Boating Council (NSBC) reports, “In 2011, 758 people died in 4,588 boating accidents. Seventy percent of all fatal boating accident victims drowned. Of those, 84 percent were reported as not wearing a life jacket.”
Most boating deaths occur on inland waterways, like lakes and rivers, as opposed to on the open sea. According to U.S. Coast Guard data, the NSBC says, “In 2011, 600 people died in lakes and rivers. In contrast, 21 people died at sea.” Last year’s U.S. Coast Guard report also concludes, “Eight out of every ten boaters who drowned were using vessels less than 21 feet in length.” Generally speaking, you are safer on larger boats.
Primary contributing factors in these accidents were determined by the U.S. Coast Guard to include “operator inattention, improper lookout, operator inexperience, excessive speed, and machinery failure.” Unfortunately, alcohol use was the leading contributing factor in 2011 fatal boating accidents, accounting for 16 percent of the deaths last year.
While boating, you must not only remain alert, but also weather aware. Last year’s statistics show that weather was the primary factor for 54 deaths, 114 injuries, and 235 accidents. Be sure you have a way to alert you on the water of inclement weather.
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CLICK HERE to see the U.S. Coast Guard’s accident statistics from previous years.
Boat tragedy survivor Nick Schuyler shares his survival story in this video as part of the 2012 National Safe Boating Week.
In your boat, there should be enough life jackets for everyone aboard, and fit each individual properly. Have a first aid kit and an emergency beacon.