The Times Leader staff
Boating safety experts want to get something off their chest and onto yours – a life jacket. The importance of flotation devices and other watercraft safety tips are the focus of the 2013 National Safe Boating Week, May 18-24.
“During National Safe Boating Week, and throughout the entire boating season, we are reminding boaters to practice safe and responsible boating, always wear your life jacket, and be alert while on the water,” said Laurel Anders, director of the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission ‘s (PFBC) Bureau of Boating and Outreach. “By practicing these simple steps you can save your life as well as the lives of the people boating with you.”
Each year, on average, 700 people die in boating-related accidents nationwide. Nearly 80 percent of the victims were not wearing a life jacket. In Pennsylvania, 11 boaters died in 2012 as a result of recreational boating accidents and only three of them were wearing a life jacket at the time of the accident.
“People tend to think of boating accidents in terms of collisions – and that is the most common type of reportable boating accident in Pennsylvania,” adds Ryan Walt, PFBC boating and watercraft safety manager. “But the accidents where we have fatalities are the ones where somebody falls overboard, or is swamped in a small boat and then ends up drowning. Those are precisely the accidents where a life jacket can make all the difference.”
Walt emphasizes that life jackets are more comfortable, convenient and lightweight than ever before. They come in a variety of sizes and styles to fit every person and recreational opportunity. Inflatable life jackets are gaining in popularity because they fit easily over any clothing, can be worn as a vest or belt-pack, and can be another option in addition to more traditional buoyant life jackets.
National Safe Boating Week is scheduled each year as the first full week before Memorial Day weekend, which is often thought of as the unofficial start of warm weather and the boating season in Pennsylvania. Boaters should note that:
Boats must have a U.S. Coast Guard approved wearable (Type I, II, III, or V) life jacket on board for each person.
Children 12 years of age and younger must wear their life jackets while underway on any boat 20 feet or less in length and on all canoes and kayaks.
The regulation requiring mandatory life jacket use during cold weather months begin November 1. Boaters must wear a life jacket on boats less than 16 feet in length or on any canoe or kayak during the cold weather months from November 1 through April 30.
Boaters can demonstrate their personal commitment to wearing a life jacket by visiting the PFBC website and submitting the online “Wear It Pennsylvania!” pledge form. The pledge form and a special video by PFBC Executive Director John Arway touting the importance of life jackets can be found at: http://www.fishandboat.com/wear-it-message.htm. In addition to taking the life jacket pledge, boaters can send in their life-saving stories on how they were “Saved By the Jacket” at http://www.fishandboat.com/savelives.
As part of its safe boating campaign, the PFBC has created a special media resources web page containing web banners and high resolution photos for graphic artists and reporters to use in stories or as additional images on websites. The page also provides 15- and 30-second public service announcements for radio stations to use. The page is located at: http://fishandboat.com/media-resources/wear-it-media/wear-it-media.htm.
Additional media resources are also available on the website for the National Safe Boating campaign at http://www.safeboatingcampaign.com/presskit.htm.
For more information on boating safety, including information on taking a boating safety education course, visit the PFBC’s web site at www.fishandboat.com.
For more information about the National Safe Boating campaign, visit http://www.safeboatingcampaign.com/welcome.htm.