Safety week emphasizes need to wear life jackets

Staff report Staff reportMay 19, 2013 

Organizers of National Safe Boating Week, running through Friday, will continue to place emphasis on getting boaters to wear life jackets.

The North American Safe Boating Campaign — simply known as “Wear It!” — is a yearlong effort in the United States and Canada to spread the boating safety message and the importance of wearing a life jacket.

In 2011, the last year for which full data is available, there were 758 deaths and 3,081 injuries as a result of 4,588 accidents, according to the U.S. Coast Guard. Of all fatal boating accident victims, 70 percent drowned. Of those, 84 percent were not reported as wearing a life jacket.

The 758 nationwide fatalities was the highest since 815 people died in 1998.

In Washington, there were 93 boating accidents in 2011, resulting in 15 fatalities and 54 injuries.

“Each year, 400 to 500 lives could have been saved if boaters had worn their life jackets,” Dan Shipman, recreational boating safety specialist with the U.S. Coast Guard District 13 in Seattle, said in a statement. “New life jackets on the market today are comfortable, lightweight and perfect for any boating activity. Don’t just carry a life jacket – wear it!”

As part of its “Wear It” campaign, the council hoped to set Saturday a record for people wearing life jackets at one time. The record, set last year, involved 3,993 people.

It also encouraged boaters to take part in “Wear Your Life Jacket to Work Day” on Friday.

The National Safe Boating Council also stresses the importance of boating sober, knowing navigational rules and having a proper lookout.

A review of boating fatality statistics also shows the importance of boater education. Only 11 percent of deaths occurred on boats where the operator had received boating safety instruction, the Coast Guard said. Only 7 percent of deaths occurred on vessels where the operator had received boating safety instruction from an approved course provider.

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