As Memorial Day Weekend unofficially opens the summer boating season, the United States Coast Guard is reminding boaters what they need to do to be safe on the water.
May 19 through 25 is National Safe Boating Week.
In South Carolina, the Department of Natural Resources 2017 Boating Accidents and Fatalities Statistics report says 15 people died while boating, down from 23 during 2016. Four deaths occurred by people falling overboard, three boaters died due to capsizing, three as a result of grounding, four in a collision with another vessel or fixed object, and one person lost their life when thrown from the vessel.
The U.S. Coast Guard Lake Murray reports boating accidents increased to 163 in 2017, the highest annual number of accidents in the past ten years.
“This may be directly related to the increased number of boaters, the popularity of paddle sports, introduction of unique types of recreational watercraft and a steady increase in the number of power vessels in our area. In 2017, SC DNR reports 513,512 registered motorboats in the state, an increase of over 16% over the ten-year period. That’s about 10% of the total population owning a power boat,” says a news release from U.S. Coast Guard Lake Murray.
The Coast Guard said safety preparations need to be made before heading out on the water.
“You need to consider where you are going, what you are doing and what’s your plan,” said Capt. John Reed, Charleston Sector Commander, U.S. Coast Guard. “If you set yourself up with a good plan, you can develop a good checklist.”
Part of the plan, Reed suggested, is to download the United States Coast Guard mobile app on your smartphone.
Reed also said to have life jackets for everyone on board. A life jacket could keep you afloat until the Coast Guard rescues you.
“If you’re within 100 miles of the coast, our objective is to get to you within two hours of notification of your distress,” he said. “Make sure you’re able to notify the Coast Guard of your distress based on where you are, that means a different type of radio or communication device. Be able to survive to the rescue.”
“83 percent of all boaters who drown are not wearing their life jackets. So do yourself a huge favor if you’re making sure that when the emergency happens, you and all your passengers know how to don your life jackets securely and can do so at a moment’s notice,” he said.
Reed also recommends taking a boating safety course.
“I would definitely consider educating yourself,” he said. “Taking a boater safety class either through your local Coast Guard Auxiliary or Power Squadron, understanding the rules of the nautical road.”
And just like driving a car, avoid excessive alcohol for everyone on board.
“Sober boating saves lives,” he said. “We need sober boaters in order to save lives and prevent needless loss of life.”
U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary Lake Murray safety suggestions:
1) Wear a life jacket
2) Take a boating safety class
3) Get a free vessel safety check for your human-power or engine-powered vessel
4) Have your passengers be lookouts to tell you about any hazards or swimmers in the water
5) Boat sober