In 2017, the Coast Guard counted 4,291 boating accidents that involved 658 deaths, 2,629 injuries and approximately $46 million in property damage. Where the cause of death was known, 76 percent of fatal boating accident victims drowned. Of those drowning victims, 84.5 percent were not wearing a life jacket, according to data recently released by the Coast Guard.
National Safe Boating Week, led by the National Safe Boating Council and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Weather Service, seeks to educate boaters about the importance of safety and wearing life jackets.
“Safety on the water is everyone’s responsibility,” said Peg Phillips, executive director of the National Safe Boating Council, in a statement. “It is important to always wear a life jacket and monitor the weather. In coastal areas, pop-up storms are a common occurrence, and advanced training and planning in boat control during inclement weather are important tools for boating safety.”
Today is Wear Your Life Jacket to Work Day, an effort by the National Safe Boating Campaign to highlight various styles of PFD prior to the campaign’s launch. The campaign asks companies to participate to share pictures on social media with the hashtags #lifejacket2work and #safeboating.
Adult life jacket wear rates rose 7 percent between 2016 and 2017, according to the Coast Guard. The 2017 rate is the highest rate recorded to date, representing a 32 percent increase since 1999 and a 53 percent increase since 2010, which had the lowest rate observed at 7.8 percent.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission takes an active role in National Safe Boating Week, with nearly 1 million registered boats in the state. The FWC releases testimonials from boaters who were saved by wearing a life jacket.
“National Safe Boating Week is May 18-24,” said Maj. Rob Rowe, leader of the FWC’s Boating and Waterways Section, in a statement. “It presents an opportunity to emphasize the importance of remaining safe while boating.”
BoatUS is offering members safety tips in honor of the campaign. MarineMax is urging customers to wear their life jackets to work today, and the company plans to give prizes to those who answer trivia questions posted on their MarineMax Leisure Boating and MarineMax Vacations Facebook pages.