National Safe Boating Week is May 22-28, the official launch of the 2021 North American Safe Boating Campaign. The U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary wishes to help ensure the public has a safe, secure and enjoyable boating experience this season by bringing attention to important lifesaving tips for recreational boaters.

According to the Oregon State Marine Board, there were 27 fatalities on Oregon waters in 2020, the most since 1987. Seven of the victims were wearing life jackets. Recreational boating encompasses both motorized and non-motorized vessels, including kayaks, canoes, standup paddleboards and others. All these recreational vessels are included in the numbers.

According to U.S. Coast Guard statistics for recreational boating, an average of 600 people die each year in boating-related accidents in the U.S. Approximately 79 percent of these fatalities are caused by drowning and of these, 86 percent were not wearing a life jacket. Where instruction was known, 70 percent of deaths occurred on boats where the operator did not receive boating safety instruction. Only 20 percent occurred on vessels where the operator had received a nationally or state approved boating safety education certificate.

Alcohol use is the leading known contributing factor in fatal boating accidents. Operator inattention, improper lookout, operator inexperience, excessive speed, and alcohol use rank as the top five primary contributing factors in accidents.

These statistics hit home important boating safety information. Wear a Coast Guard approved, proper fitting life jacket at all times while underway. Do not stow it since you may not have time to don it in an emergency. While boating or paddling, always expect the unexpected and be prepared with the proper training and equipment. Take a boating safety class. Use an engine cut-off device on motorized boats. File a float plan. Be aware of weather and water conditions. Be considerate of others and understand boating etiquette and navigation rules. Boat sober – it’s the law.

For more information from the U.S. Coast Guard about safe boating, visit https://www.uscgboating.org/.

The U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary and other organizations offer boating and paddling classes both online and in person. In Oregon, all boaters who operate a motorboat over 10 horsepower and youths 12-15 years old operating a motorboat of any size are required to take an approved boating safety course and apply/carry a boater education card. Youth ages 11 and under cannot operate a motorboat. For more information about boating requirements and laws in Oregon, visit the Oregon State Marine Board online at https://boat.oregon.gov.

The U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary offers free Vessel Safety Checks (VSCs) for recreational boats and paddlecraft. The courtesy exam is performed at your boat — whether in a slip, at the launch ramp or in your driveway — by a certified vessel examiner and usually takes 30 to 45 minutes. They will check to see if you have the necessary equipment to save lives and summon help, and check if your vessel meets current state and federal safety standards. No recreational vessel is too large or too small to be safe and in compliance. If you pass the exam, you will receive a VSC sticker to place on your vessel. To request a VSC, contact your local Coast Guard Auxiliary Flotilla, the local U.S. Power Squadron or visit cgaux.org.

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