By Tracy Murrell
Here in DC, the weather this weekend is expected to be perfect, close to 80 degrees and sunny. For many around the county, perfect weather this weekend will mean getting out on the open water for the first ride or paddle of the season.
If you’re a motorboater, maybe you’ve been longing to hear the deep hum of the engine idling in the water turn to a smooth roar as you speed through the water. Or maybe you prefer the feeling of free floating as you skip across the water on a personal watercraft.
Perhaps you’re a kayaker or canoeist, and crave the intimate closeness to the elements, the feel of even the slightest change in wind and the sensation of every ripple on the surface. Maybe you’re a paddler, and love the calming feeling of your board gently rocking to the rhythm of the water.
Something deep within us draws us to the water. But whether you prefer to enjoy the seas, lakes, or rivers; it’s important to equip yourself with the right tools to help you survive in those environments when something goes wrong.
That’s where your common sense comes in: Wear a personal flotation device – a lifejacket. Whether you’re in a motorboat, a canoe, a kayak, or on a paddleboard, wearing a lifejacket significantly improves your safety on the water.
In 2014, 610 people died and more than 2,500 were injured in 4,064 recreational boating accidents. According to the U.S. Coast Guard, 78% of the people who died in these accidents drowned, and 84% of those who drowned were not wearing lifejackets. That’s almost 400 people whose lives could have been saved by the simple act of putting on a lifejacket.
This week is National Safe Boating Week. Safety advocates across the U.S. and Canada are working together to promote safe and responsible boating. This week also marks the official launch of the 2015 North American Safe Boating Campaign, a yearlong campaign to promote safe recreational boating and use of lifejackets.
Be a responsible boater and obey the ways of the water. Always use a personal flotation device, and don’t boat while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Don’t let a perfect day on the water turn into a preventable tragedy.
Tracy Murrell is the Director of the NTSB’s Office of Marine Safety