Whitehall-Coplay Press

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Press photo by Nick HromiakThese Leaser Lake anglers have smartly donned life jackets in their narrow fishing boat. Press photo by Nick HromiakThese Leaser Lake anglers have smartly donned life jackets in their narrow fishing boat.

With holidays approaching, practice safe boating

Wednesday, May 25, 2016 by nick hromiak Special to the Press in Sports

In recognition of National Safe Boating Week May 21-27 and with Memorial Day upcoming when boaters traditionally take to the waters, the major theme is to practice safe and responsible boating. And most of all, wearing a life jacket when aboard a watercraft.

Each year, on average, 700 people die in boating-related accidents nationwide. Nearly 80-percent of the victims were not wearing a life jacket according to the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission. In Pennsylvania last year, four boaters died as a result of recreational boating accidents.

“Only one of the victims was wearing a life jacket at the time of the accident,” said Col. Corey Britcher, the PFBC’s Bureau of Law Enforcement. “People tend to think of boating accidents in terms of collisions - however capsizing and falls overboard are the most common type of boating accidents in the state,” Britcher explained.

On the national level, the U.S. Coast Guard released its 2015 Recreational Statistics report, revealing that boating fatalities nationwide that year totaled 626, the third lowest number of yearly boating fatalities on record. But that number is still too high.

From 2014-2015, injuries decreased from 2,678 to 2,613, a 2.4 percent decrease; deaths increased from 610 to 626, a 2.6 percent increase; and the total number of accidents increased from 4,064 to 4,158, a 2.3 percent increase. The same report also shows that in 2015:

* The fatality rate of 5.3 deaths per 100,000 registered recreational vessels reflected a 1.9 percent increase from the previous year’s rate of 5.2 deaths per 100,000 registered recreational vessels.

* Twenty-two children under age 13 died while boating that year. Twelve children (55 percent) died from drowning. Two children (17 percent) of those who drowned were wearing a life jacket; half of the remaining 10 children who were not wearing a life jacket were not required to do so under state law.

* Alcohol was the leading known contributing factor in fatal boating accidents and was listed as the leading factor in 17 percent of deaths.

* Operator inattention, operator inexperience, improper lookout, machinery failure and excessive speed ranked as the top five primary contributing factors in accidents.

* Property damage totaled approximately $42 million.

The USCG reports that where the cause of death was known, 76-percent of fatal boating accident victims drowned; of those drowning victims, 85-percent were not wearing a life jacket. Where boating instruction was known, 71-percent of deaths occurred on vessels where the operator has not received boating safety instruction. The most common types of vessels involved in reported accidents were open motorboats, personal watercraft and cabin motorboats. The vessel types with the highest number of fatalities were on open motorboats, kayaks and canoes. To summarize, the common faults were boating under the influence and failure to wear life jackets.

In Pennsylvania alone in 2014, and of their 70 reported accidents, the most common type was capsizing at 21, followed by collision with vessel, 9; falls overboard, 7; struck by submerged object, 7; skier mishap, 6; fire/explosion, 4; grounding/sinking, 4; collision with fixed object, 2; swamping, 2; struck by boat, 2; boat over dam, 2; struck by prop, 1; passenger mishap, 1; fall in boat, 1; struck by object in boat,1.

Also in 2014, 17 recreational boating accidents in Pennsylvania resulted in 17 fatalities, which is the same number as in 2013. Of the 17, only three were wearing a life jacket at the time of the mishap that resulted in death. Ironically, eight of the 17 were not wearing a life jacket but did have them on board the boat.

And lest boaters forget, 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.