National Safe Boating Week Is May 21-27

National Safe Boating Week (May 21-27) highlights the need for boaters to take command of their safety by wearing a life jacket at all times while on the water.

According to the Coast Guard’s latest available statistics, 703 boaters died in 2003. Eighty-six percent of those who drowned were not wearing their life jackets even though in many cases, life jackets were aboard.

“Our boating accident statistics show that wearing your life jacket is the number-one thing you can do to greatly increase your chances of surviving a boating accident,” said Rear Admiral Jeffrey J. Hathaway, Director of Operations Policy, United States Coast Guard. “The reality is there is rarely enough time to reach a life jacket, because accidents happen so quickly and unexpectedly. Up to 416 boaters would have survived in 2003 if they’d simply put on their life jackets before they headed out.”

Fortunately, the number of fatalities on Alabama’s waterways has decreased since the passage of the Roberson-Archer Act in 1994. At the time this Act was passed, Alabama averaged approximately 35 boating fatalities per year. In the first year of inception, fatalities were reduced almost 50 percent. The accident and fatality rates have continued to remain low, with 22 occurring in 2003. Of those 22 fatalities, approximately 19 could have possibly been prevented if the victim had been wearing a life jacket.

Although wearing a life jacket is the number one boating safety step, the National Safe Boating Council (NSBC) offers four other steps to dramatically reduce your chances of being hurt or killed in a boating accident.


An operator with a blood alcohol content above .10—(equivalent to consuming 5 beers in one hour for the average 180-lb. male)—is 10 times more likely to die in a boating accident than an operator with zero blood alcohol. The legal limit is .08. Stressors such as sun, vibration, noise, and other environmental elements affect the body more when you consume alcohol. Operating a boat under the influence of alcohol or drugs is illegal in all states and violation of federal law.


Seventy percent of recreational boating accidents are caused by factors that are controlled by the boat’s operator—such as failure to pay attention, carelessness, recklessness, inexperience, excessive speed, and failure to watch for hazards. Boating safety courses are available, inexpensive, and quick—a great way for you to learn safety and the rules of the road.


The Coast Guard Auxiliary and United States Power Squadrons® offer a free Vessel Safety Check (VSC). Contact for information.


All boat engines produce Carbon Monoxide (CO)—an odorless, colorless, poisonous gas that can kill you in a matter of minutes. Boaters are killed every year because of improper cabin ventilation, poorly maintained equipment, and careless behavior. You do not have to be inside the boat to be at risk. Boaters have died from exposure on the swim platforms of their boats and in other areas where CO exhaust may accumulate or be emitted. Be aware of the early symptoms (irritated eyes, headache, nausea, weakness, and dizziness), and use CO detectors on your boat.

NSBC, along with the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators, produces National Safe Boating Week through a grant from the Aquatic Resources (Wallop-Breaux) Trust Fund administered by the U.S. Coast Guard. For more information visit

The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources promotes wise stewardship, management and enjoyment of Alabama’s natural resources through five divisions: Marine Police, Marine Resources, State Parks, State Lands, and Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries.

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