CG: Wear Your Life Jacket!

U.S. Coast Guard statistics released this week indicate 86 percent of all boaters who drowned in 2003 were not wearing life jackets. In addition, alcohol involvement was a contributing factor in approximately one third of all reported recreational boating fatalities.

More than 95 percent of boat owners report having enough life jackets onboard for all their passengers, however 66 percent of them do not wear their lifejackets every time they go out, according to a Coast Guard study conducted in 2001 and 2002 involving more than 25,000 recreational boaters.

"Boaters need to be responsible for the safety of themselves, their passengers and other boaters," stressed Rear Adm. J.W. Underwood, U.S. Coast Guard director for operations policy.  "This means not only having life jackets on board but requiring your passengers to wear them all the time. You never know when an accident will happen that will prevent you from reaching for and putting on for that lifejacket."

The statistics also show the leading contributing factors in boating accidents are operator inattention, carelessness/reckless operation, operator inexperience, and excessive speed.  Eighty percent of those who died were onboard boats whose operators had not received boating safety instruction.

"There are still far too many deaths, injuries and accidents," he continued. "The key is education, which is why the Coast Guard's Office of Boating Safety has joined forces with a number of recreational boating safety partners to launch our 'You're in Command.  Be Responsible.  Boat Safely!' initiative."

Recreational boating fatalities were down 6 percent from the previous year, continuing a 12-year downward trend.  The 13 million registered boats in 2003 represent two million more registered boats on America's waterways than 12 years ago.

The new statistics are posted on the Coast Guard's Office of Boating Safety website at and include statistics broken down by state.