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Summer is in full swing, along with all the activities that people enjoy. One activity many participate in is recreational boating. Based on figures from actual state and Coast Guard registrations, it’s estimated that over 75 million people take part in recreational boating each year, with 12,101,936 recreational vessels registered nationwide.  Almost half of those 75 million are families with children.  And the numbers continue to grow as more and more people decide to venture into the waters.

 According to the United States Coast Guard, in 2012, there were a total of 4515 recreational boating accidents, with 651 fatalities and 3,000 injuries and approximately $38 million dollars of damage to property. Almost seventy-one percent of all fatal boating accident victims drowned, and of those, almost eighty-five percent were not wearing life jackets.

 The top five contributing factors to fatal accidents were alcohol, operator inexperience, operator inattention, excessive speed and navigation rules violation. July was once again the month where the most number of accidents occurred (1079), the most number of fatalities (124) and the most number of injuries (757).

 For new boaters, learning to drive a boat is similar to learning how to drive a car. It takes time and practice to feel comfortable and confident behind the wheel. It’s important to start small, learning on a boat that is easy to maneuver.

 Study boating and sailing terminology. Bring experienced boaters along who can help teach you the handling of different scenarios that may occur.

 New boaters should also practice on calm waters, avoiding locations where there are big waves and lots of other boat traffic. Always remember to check and weather reports. Even the most veteran boaters can struggle with handling their craft in bad weather. Make sure you bring proper gear and equipment with you, even if the skies are sunny when you head out.

 Always share your travel plans with someone who is staying on shore, whether you are going out alone or with a group. Let them know the general area you will be boating in and your expected return time.

 No matter how good a swimmer you are, always wear a life jacket and insist that any passengers on the boat also wear one.

 And just like drinking and driving a car don’t mix, neither does drinking and driving a boat. Over 100 people were killed in 2012 because someone drank and operated a boat.


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