HARRISBURG, Pa. (May 15) – Boating safety experts want to get something off their chest and onto yours – a life jacket. The importance of flotation devices and other watercraft safety tips are the focus of the 2017 National Safe Boating Week, May 20-26.
“During National Safe Boating Week, and throughout the entire boating season, we are reminding boaters to practice safe and responsible boating, always wear your life jacket, and be alert while on the water,” said Colonel Corey Britcher, director of the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission ‘s (PFBC) Bureau of Law Enforcement. “By practicing these simple steps you can save your life as well as the lives of the people boating with you.”
Each year, on average, 700 people die in boating-related accidents nationwide. Nearly 80 percent of the victims were not wearing a life jacket.
Last year in Pennsylvania, there were 70 recreational boating accidents which resulted in 11 fatalities. Only three of the 11 victims were wearing a life jacket at the time of the accident. Seven of the 11 victims were not wearing a life jacket but did have them onboard the boat.
So far this year, five individuals have died in boating-related accidents. One of the victims was wearing a life jacket. Two victims were not wearing life jackets. Another was wearing a life jacket but it was not worn correctly. The investigation into the fifth fatality is on-going, so it has not been determined yet if the victim was wearing a life jacket when his boat capsized.
“People tend to think of boating accidents in terms of collisions – however capsizing and falls overboard are the most common type of reportable boating accident in Pennsylvania,” adds Britcher. “Accidents where fatalities occur usually are the ones where somebody falls overboard, or is swamped in a small boat and drowns. Those are precisely the accidents where a life jacket can make all the difference.”
Britcher emphasizes that life jackets are more comfortable, convenient and lightweight than ever. They come in a variety of sizes and styles to fit every person and recreational opportunity. Inflatable life jackets are gaining in popularity because they fit easily over any clothing, can be worn as a vest or belt-pack, and can be another option in addition to more traditional buoyant life jackets.
National Safe Boating Week is scheduled each year as the first full week before Memorial Day weekend, which is often thought of as the unofficial start of warm weather and the boating season in Pennsylvania. Boaters should note that:
· Boats must have a U.S. Coast Guard approved wearable life jacket on board for each person.
· Personal watercraft users must wear a life jacket at all times.
· Children 12 years of age and younger must wear their life jackets while underway on any boat 20 feet or less in length and on all canoes and kayaks.