There is one simple strategy that saves lives during recreational boating and that is wearing a life jacket. Yet, according to the U.S. Coast Guard, 85 percent of drowning victims in recreational boating accidents were not wearing a life jacket in 2012.
The North American Safe Boating Campaign reminds boaters of the importance of boating safety and always wearing a life jacket.
“There’s no excuse not to wear a life jacket,” said Virgil Chambers, executive director of the National Safe Boating Council, a lead organization for the campaign. “You can still have fun on the water while wearing a life jacket and boating responsibly.”
Just ask Richard VanDermark, an experienced boater and a navigation officer in Orange County, New York. VanDermark recalls the day he went tubing with his family in 2011 when he slipped while helping his grandson onto the boat, hitting his head and falling into the water. Thanks to wearing his life jacket, his son-in-law quickly pulled him out of the water and performed CPR.
“There is no doubt in my mind that my life jacket saved my life. No matter how good a swimmer you are, you never know what will happen when you’re boating,” said VanDermark. “Always wear your life jacket.”
“Wear It!” identifies the top 5 excuses not to wear a life jacket.
1. “I have life jackets on board.” Having life jackets on board the vessel is not enough. Accidents happen too fast to put on a stowed life jacket.
2. “I’m a strong swimmer.” Even a strong swimmer needs to wear a life jacket. During an emergency, clothing can become heavy or waterlogged while in the water.
3. “It’s too hot and doesn’t look cool.” Old-fashioned, bulky orange life jackets have been replaced with new styles, like inflatable life jackets that may resemble a pair of suspenders or a belt pack. These are much cooler in the warmer weather.
4. “It gets in the way.” There are life jacket styles available for any recreational water activity – fishing, water sports, hunting, paddling and more. There are even styles for pets!
5. “Nothing is going to happen to me.” Face it, accidents happen. Boating can be a fun, safe and enjoyable activity, but when the “Wear It!” message is ignored, the consequences can be grim.
The North American Safe Boating Campaign is produced under a grant from the Sports Fish Restoration and Boating Trust Fund, administered by the U.S. Coast Guard. It unites the efforts of a wide variety of boating safety advocates, including the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators, Canadian Safe Boating Council and many members of the National Safe Boating Council.