On average, the fatality statistics are on the decline from 133 in June, 2002 to 26 in 2003. However, 26 is still 26 too many. The U.S. Coast Guard has some very useful information on safe boating practices. Visit their website for more details. The following information is information that everyone no matter if you are in the ocean, on the lake, or in a pond should know.
Boating Under the Influance
It is illegal to operate a boat while under the influence of alcohol or drugs no matter which state you are in. Just like the police on land, the Coast Guard enforces a federal law that prohibits Boating while Under the Influence (BUI). This law pertains to boats from canoes and rowboats to the largest ships in the water. It also includes foreign vessels that operate in U.S. waters, as well as U.S. vessels on the high seas.
Dangers of BUI
As we have all been told at one point or another, alcohol affects judgment, vision, balance and coordination. According to U.S. Coast Guard data, boating deaths that involved alcohol use, over half of the victims capsized their boats and/or fell overboard.
The marine environment makes alcohol even more hazardous on the water than on land due to the motion, vibration, engine noise, sun, wind and spray which accelerates a drinkers impairment. This environment also causes fatigue which makes a boat operators coordination, judgment and reaction time decline even faster when using alcohol.
Inexperience and less confidence make alcohol use on a boat more dangerous. People tend to be more confident on the highway than in a boat. With averaging approximately 110 hours on the water per year, recreational boaters do not have the benefit of experiencing daily boat operation.
Tips for Avoiding BUI
While boating, fishing and other water sports are fun and extremely popular activities, combining them with alcohol can turn a great day into a tragedy of a lifetime.
Consider these alternatives to using alcohol while on the water:
Personal Floating Devices (PFD)
All recreational boats must carry one wearable PFD (Type 1, II, III or Type V PFD) for each person on board. A Type V PFD provides performance of a Type I, II or III PFD (as marked on its label) and must be used according to the label requirements. Any boat 16 ft. and longer (except canoes and kayaks) must also carry one throwable PFD (Type IV PFD).
PFDs must be Coast Guard approved, in good and serviceable condition and the appropriate size for the intended user.
PFD Requirements for Children
Some states require that children wear PFDs:
Check with your state boating safety officials.
Child PFD approvals are based on the childs weight. Check the User Weight on the label, or the approval statement that will read something like Approved for use on recreational boats and uninspected commercial vessels not carrying passengers for hire, by persons weighing ____ lbs. They can also be marked less than 30, 30 to 50, less than 50, or 50 to 90.
PFD Requirements for Certain Boating Activities Under State Laws
The Coast Guard recommends and many states require wearing PFDs:
Federal law does not require PFDs on racing shells, rowing sculls, racing canoes, and racing kayaks; state laws vary. Check with your state boating safety officials.
If you are boating in an area under the jurisdiction of the Army Corps of Engineers, or a federal, state, or local park authority, other rules may apply.
There are three basic kinds of PFD flotation in PFDs with the following characteristics:
Inherently Buoyant (primarily Foam)
Hybrid (Foam & Inflation)
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