Boating safety starts with a life jacket

Safe boating includes wearing a life jacket (personal flotation device) at all times while on the water. In 2012, Colorado had 10 recreational boating-related fatalities, each by drowning, and none were wearing a life jacket.



The news that Vega Reservoir is open to boating is a reminder that May 18–24 is National Safe Boating Week.

There is some evidence boating-safety campaigns work and that boating, and boaters, are getting safer.

The U.S. Coast Guard reported boating fatalities in 2012 dropped to 651, the lowest number of boating fatalities in a year on record and a 14.1 percent drop from the 758 fatalities reported in 2011.

Increased awareness of the dangers of drinking while operating a motorboat has helped, but the Coast Guard said alcohol use was a contributing factor in 17 percent of the fatalities, the leading single contributing factor in fatal boating accidents.

The other leading factors in boating accidents included operator inattention, operator inexperience, improper lookout, machinery failure and excessive speed.

Many boating deaths still can be avoided, which is where this year’s safety campaign comes in.

The 2013 safety program is titled “Wear It!” and focuses on the importance of wearing a life jackets, something missing in 84 percent of the reported drownings in 2012.

Of Colorado’s 10 recreational boating-related fatalities in 2012, all were drownings, and none of the victims were wearing a life jacket.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife this summer is promoting a boat safe, boat smart and boat sober program.

Colorado requires all boats to have one wearable life jacket (personal flotation device) for each person on board.

All children 12 years and younger are required to wear a PFD whenever they are on the water except when in an enclosed cabin.

Of all the boaters involved in an accident last year, only 15 percent had any type of boat-safety education.

Parks and Wildlife offers boating-safety classes open to everyone, and these classes are required for anyone 14 and 15 years old wanting to operate a motorboat or personal watercraft.

Classes are being offered this summer at numerous sites around the state, including Crawford State Park, Rifle Gap, Sweitzer Lake, Ridgway Reservoir and Highline Lake State Park.

Information about classes is available online at http://bit.ly/wZO2G8.

Finally, boat sober. In 2012, 50 percent of fatal and 24 percent of nonfatal boat accidents involved alcohol and/or drugs.


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