Make a Splash – Stay Afloat this Summer!

By Debbie Hersman

NTSB Chairman Deborah A.P. Hersman and NTSB staffer Bill Gossard examine an inflatable swim t-shirt is called a “Sea-Tee”.
NTSB Chairman Deborah A.P. Hersman and NTSB staffer Bill Gossard examine an inflatable swim t-shirt is called a “Sea-Tee”.

It is June, schools are letting out for the summer and kids are looking forward to visits to the nation’s beaches, lakes and rivers. Today, I was able attend a great event for kids and discuss staying safe on the water. Living Classroom, a non-profit educational organization, brought 300 students to the National Harbor, in Prince George’s County Maryland, for a morning of fishing and fun. For many of these kids, this was their first time on a boat, so it was a great chance to educate them about boating safety.

For decades, the NTSB has stressed the importance of all boaters, especially children, wearing a life jacket or personal floatation device (PFD) when engaging in boating activities. Today Virginia and Wisconsin are the only two states in the country that do not have any laws requiring PFD use for kids. During the bass tournament awards presentation, I talked to the young anglers about the sobering statistics – in 2009 about 700 people died in boating accidents. Unfortunately, we’ve investigated too many accidents, like the Taki-Too, that demonstrate that drowning deaths are preventable and chances of survival are improved if PFDs are worn.

The principal sponsor of the bass tournament is FLW. Today all the kids wore life jackets, but I also learned that whenever FLW hosts a professional fishing tournament, they require that all tournament anglers wear PFDs when the boat’s engine is running. That’s great leadership from the industry and helps reinforce boating safety for all ages.

There are many types of life jackets and PFDs on the market today. Not all life jackets are orange and made of foam. There are auto-inflating suspenders and belt packs that are worn by not only professional anglers, but also law enforcement personnel. This morning I saw a new product that was the 2011 winner of the “National Design a Better Life Jacket Competition” sponsored by the BoatUS Foundation. This inflatable swim t-shirt is called a “Sea-Tee” and looked very much like a rash-guard shirt that surfers wear, but it had lightweight inflatable bladder inside that could be inflated with CO2 or by mouth. More comfortable PFDs means more people will wear them – keep innovating!

Two thumbs up to all of the organizations and their leadership for participating in this event! As we move into the summer months and seek relief from the heat in the water, let’s make sure that we think safety first, especially when it comes to our children.

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