Outdoors

Boating safety groups stress the need to wear life jackets and boating sober

A holiday weekend with high temperatures means there will be lots of boats on the waters of Puget Sound and local lakes.

Add in the likelihood of alcohol consumption and it becomes a recipe for trouble.

“With more boaters enjoying time on the water during the holiday weekend, it’s very important to boat responsibly,” Rachel Johnson, executive director of the National Safe Boating Council, said in a prepared statement.

“Many factors contribute to staying safe while boating, such as always wearing a life jacket, boating sober, knowing navigational rules and having a proper lookout,” Johnson said.

While the number of boating accidents in 2014 was nearly identical to the year before, the number of boating deaths rose to 610 from 560 in 2013, according to U.S. Coast Guard statistics. There also were 2,678 people injured in boating accidents last year, up from 2,620 injuries in 2013.

In Washington, there were 122 boating accidents in 2014, resulting in 22 deaths and 67 injuries.

Coast Guard data also show that drowning was the reported cause of death in almost three-fourths of recreational boating fatalities, and that 84 percent of those who drowned were not wearing life jackets.

The council is the lead organization of the Wear It boating safety campaign. The educational effort offers a simple reminder that you can still have fun on the water while choosing to always wear a life jacket and boating responsibly.

There are life jacket options that are much more comfortable, lightweight and stylish than the old orange life jackets most boaters know. Today’s options, such as inflatable life jackets, provide more mobility and flexibility for activities such as boating, fishing, paddling or hunting and are much cooler in warm weather, according to a news release from the boating council.

Boating safety officials are also stressing the importance of boating sober. Alcohol use was the leading contributing factor in fatal boating accidents in 2014.

In Washington last year, there were four people who died and another seven were injured in nine accidents in which alcohol was a contributing factor.

“We want people to have a great time boating while staying safe,” Johnson said in the statement. “There’s nothing more relaxing and fun than a day on the water with family and friends.”

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