National Safe Boating Campaign: Week One

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 3, 2003

I love this time of year. Not just because my beloved Baltimore Orioles have kicked off their season. Not because there are days when it gets downright warm. No, I enjoy this time of year because I get to start a count down to National Safe Boating week, which runs from 17th to the 23rd of May.

What is National Safe Boating Week? It’s is sponsored by the National Safe Boating Council (NSBC), the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA) and the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG). It designed to promote safe boating across North America. The campaign theme for this year is, &uot;Boat Smart, Boat Safe. Wear It!&uot;

The emphasis is on getting the recreational boating public; whether the operator or passenger should wear an approved personal flotation device (PFD). The reason is simple; you have a much better chance of surviving a serious accident than if you don’t have one on. Noticed I wrote &uot;have one on.&uot; This means physically on, not being used for an additional cushion to sit or lean on. Statistics support the position that wearing a PFD will save lives. In fact we will review some of the statistics in next week’s column.

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What are the five key points that this year’s campaign is reinforcing to reduce your chances of getting hurt or killed in a boating accident? According to the National Safe Boating Council they are:

#1. WEAR YOUR LIFE JACKET! Most people who are killed while pleasure boating drown – and most people who drown are not wearing a life jacket. When you capsize, collide, or fall overboard, there is rarely time to get to a stowed life jacket. Modern life jackets are smaller and more comfortable making it easier than ever to &uot;Wear It!&uot; at all times.

#2. STAY SOBER IN YOUR BOAT! An operator with a blood alcohol content above .10 – (equivalent to consuming five beers in one hour for the average 180-lb. male) – is 10 times more likely to die in a boating accident than an operator with zero blood alcohol. Stressors such as sun, vibration, noise, and other environmental elements affect the body more when you consume alcohol. Operating a boat under the influence of alcohol or drugs is illegal in all states and violation of Federal law.

#3. TAKE A SAFE BOATING COURSE! Seventy percent of recreational boating accidents are caused by factors that are controlled by the boat’s operator – such as failure to pay attention, carelessness, recklessness, inexperience, excessive speed, and failure to watch for hazards. Boating safety courses are available, inexpensive, and quick – a great way for you to learn safety and the rules of the road.

#4. GET YOUR BOAT CHECKED! The Coast Guard Auxiliary and United States Power Squadrons offer a free Vessel Safety Check (VSC). Contact for information.

#5. BE AWARE OF CARBON MONOXIDE! All boat engines produce Carbon Monoxide (CO) – an odorless, colorless, poisonous gas that can kill you in a matter of minutes. Boaters are killed every year because of improper cabin ventilation, poorly maintained equipment, and careless behavior. Be aware of the symptoms, and use CO detectors on your boat.

We will explore everyone of these issues in greater depth. Until next week, Boat Safe… Boat Smart, and please remember those brave individuals serving overseas in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

LCDR Joe DiRenzo III is a resident of Suffolk and a regular News-Herald columnist.