The Harbor Column: Life vests, lookouts advised for safety

May 21, 2010|By Mike Whitehead

"Wear It!" is the nationwide theme for this year's Safe Boating Week, from Saturday to May 28. This annual campaign encourages boaters to wear their life jackets to increase their chances of surviving an accident.

The National Safe Boating Council is partnered with the National Assn. of State Boating Law Administrators and the Canadian Safe Boating Council for Safe Boating Week. The campaign is produced under a grant from the Sports Fish Restoration and Boating Trust Fund, which is administered by the U.S. Coast Guard.

"The 'Wear It!' message puts a positive spin on a sometimes dreary and saddening situation where, every year, some boaters choose to not wear a life jacket," Virgil Chambers, executive director of the National Safe Boating Council, an umbrella group representing boating safety advocates throughout North America, said in a news release. "The campaign recognizes that education and outreach of the life jacket and boating safety message can ultimately help to save lives."


Boating and fishing are the No. 1 family recreational activity in the nation. Campaigns such as this have helped to increase safety awareness to make boating also one of the safest recreational outdoor activities.

Coast Guard statistics show that in 2008 there were 4,789 accidents with 709 fatalities, which is a very small percentage of the 72 million people who participate in boating. Keep in mind that the breadth of the statistics was expanded to include the count of those who drown while swimming from a boat, and not actually boating.

The statistics show that careless and reckless operation plus operators' inattention with no proper lookout are the top factors contributing to the total accidents. Collision with other vessels is the most frequent type of accident. Now, you tell me, how does one collide with another vessel when the first rule in boating underway is to have a proper lookout?

This is a good campaign but the question still remains, "how practical is it to always wear your life jacket?"

I have an inflatable waist pouch life jacket that I wear when out on the high seas while delivering yachts along the Pacific Coast.

The National Safe Boating Council has a lot of information and printable materials at

As Rags Laragione, president of the accredited Maritime Institute says, "Education is the key, so let's get educated!"

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