Alaska editorial: Practice boating safety

Posted: Monday, August 24, 2009

With the number of boating fatalities increasing and boating season still under way, the U.S. Coast Guard is underscoring the importance of on-the-water safety.

The increase is in the area of recreational boating fatalities.

The Coast Guard annually measures the number of these types of deaths against the number of recreational boats. From 2007 to 2008, the rate increased from 5.3 to 5.6 per 100,000 boats. There were 709 deaths, 3,331 injuries and about $54 million in property damage as a result of 4,789 recreational boating accidents.

Boating accidents occur because operators aren't paying attention. Sometimes it's carelessness and other times recklessness. Some captains operate their boats with insufficient manpower or they or their passengers are inexperienced boaters. At times, it's a matter of water skiers behaving poorly while being towed by a boat.

Seventeen percent of the deaths involved alcohol consumption, according to the Coast Guard.

"The 2008 report shows a clear link between safety and boating education by highlighting that only 10 percent of deaths occurred on boats where the operator had received boating safety education," says Rear Adm. Kevin Cook, the Coast Guard's director of prevention policy. "This statistic indicates that boaters who have taken a boating safety course are less likely to be involved in an accident."

Cook's statistics also showed that two-thirds of all of the recreational boating accident victims drowned. Of those, 90 percent weren't wearing a life jacket.

It doesn't matter how much experience a boat captain or his passengers have, if they don't use the safety equipment available, it won't save them from death or injury.

The Coast Guard has a Web site specifically designed to provide boating responsibility at

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