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Boating fatalities going down, but too slowly

One of the most-used publications that I receive electronically regarding boating safety issues comes from the Coast Guard’s &uot;Waypoints.&uot; Published by the service Office of Boating Safety, the articles are wide-ranging and provide the reader the latest information in the world of boating safety.

In the November 2005 edition the service announced one of the most important indicators that serve as a measure of the effectiveness of safe boating program throughout the country.

The statistics are being released, at the same time as the number of boaters are increasing with over 13 million boat owners operating vessels nationwide. The number of boaters here in

Hampton Roads is also going up.

According to Waypoints, &uot;The U.S. Coast Guard announced that the total fatalities resulting from recreational boating accidents declined to 676, the lowest on record since 1960. However, 484 boaters drowned in 2004, and 90 percent of those who drowned were not wearing a life jacket.&uot;

The statistics also documented that 70 percent of those involved in a boating incident that resulted in a fatality never took a safe boating course – 70 percent. Additionally, the same information documented that 32 percent of those involved had alcohol as a factor.

Ignorance and booze made a lousy combination with a deadly result.

The issue of life jackets, education and drinking were constant themes in so many of these unfortunate events.

I’ve written about the need for life jackets, a boating safety course and not drinking while boating a number of times over the years – these national statistics document the need to address these issues even more dramatically.

However – there is also a tremendous amount of good information which all of us should celebrate. The 2004 statistics indicate a steady drop when evaluated again the 750 fatalities reported in 2002 or the 703 fatalities which were documented in 2003.

This is a trend that is good news and must continue to go down.

&uot;Waypoints&uot; provided wonderful conclusion on this issue: &uot;The U.S. Coast Guard and its boating safety partners devote extensive effort to safety patrols, boater awareness, and education.

Although it is estimated that more than 33,000 lives have been saved since the Recreational Boating Safety Program began in 1971, much remains to be done&uot;….however, &uot;as in years past, the great majority of recreational boating deaths remains preventable.&uot;

That last sentence is something that all of us should ponder.

Until next week….Boat Safe, Boat Smart and for all of you… Happy Thanksgiving!

Joe DiRenzo III is a retired Coast Guard officer and former cutter commanding officer. A nationally published expert on port security and maritime terrorism he has written the News-Herald Safe Boating column for just under five years.