JUNEAU — The U.S. Coast Guard anticipates an increased number of recreational boaters throughout Alaska during Labor Day weekend and, through a press release this week, is urging boaters to take proper safety precautions while on the water.
The release outlined four steps every boater can take to reduce the risk of accidents, prevent serious injuries and ensure a safe and enjoyable weekend:
• Boaters should always wear a life jacket. The number one cause of boating fatalities is drowning, most often by sudden, unexpected entry into the water. Wearing a life jacket increases the chances of surviving a boating accident. The law states you must have a life jacket, or personal flotation device, for every person aboard. The Coast Guard recommends boaters wear life jackets at all times. In Alaska, children 13 years of age and younger are required to wear a life jacket when on the water and not in an enclosed cabin.
• Never boat under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Alcohol and drugs effect judgment, vision, balance and coordination. Alcohol, combined with boat motion, vibration, engine noise, sun, wind and spray accelerate an operator’s impairment. Intoxicated boaters can face both federal and state charges with penalties of up to one year in prison and fines up to $10,000. The legal definition of intoxication in Alaska is a blood alcohol content of .08 or higher.
• File a float plan and leave it with someone at home. A float plan gives a description of your vessel, states where you are going and when you plan on returning, which helps emergency responders locate distressed mariners.
• The Coast Guard encourages mariners to have a reliable means of signaling rescuers onboard their vessels in case of emergency. Recommended devices include VHF-FM marine band radios, emergency position indicating radio beacons and signal flares.
“Boaters, personal watercraft operators and kayakers need to be aware of their surroundings and are reminded to continuously monitor weather forecasts,” said David Borg, boating safety coordinator with the USCG 17th District. “Weather and water conditions can change instantaneously and rapidly forming fog, strong currents, wind and tide changes can create hazardous conditions for boaters.”
Boaters can also visit the Coast Guard’s boating safety website at http://www.uscgboating.org for more information on tips, free courses and safety checks offered by the Coast Guard Auxiliary.
For more information contact the Coast Guard public affairs office at 907-271-2660.