In preparation for the upcoming Memorial Day holiday weekend, the nation’s largest recreational boating safety event of the year is set for May 22-28.
The National Safe Boating Week serves as a reminder to boaters to keep safety first and center all season long.
According to the Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission (PFBC), each year, on average, 700 people die in boating accidents nationwide. And nearly 85 percent of the victims were not wearing a life jacket.
Last year the agency said there were 58 national recreational boating accidents resulting in 11 fatalities. None of the 11 were wearing life jackets at the time of the accidents. Alcohol or drugs were believed to have been a factor in three of the fatal accidents.
Most recently, there have been three Pennsylvania boating fatalities so far this year. All occurred on private ponds and none of the victims were wearing life jackets.
The first fatality occurred on Feb. 2, 2021, when a 70-year old male fell overboard from a kayak on a private pond. The victim was attempting to rescue his dogs who fell through the pond ice so he retrieved his kayak and launched it in open water where he subsequently went overboard. Both he and his dogs perished. According to the PFBC, sudden cold water immersion may have been a factor.
The second fatality took place Mar. 20, 2021, when a 44-year old male capsized a 6-foot kayak while fishing on a private pond. Like the other victim, this man also did not wear a life jacket. Again, sudden immersion in cold water may have been a factor in his death.
In the third fatality that occurred Apr. 3, 2021, when an 84-year old male capsized a 12-foot motorboat on a private pond. His boat was found drifting on the pond and he wasn’t located until the following day in 8 feet of water. The victim was not wearing a life jacket and like the others, it’s surmised sudden cold water immersion may have been a factor.
There are three major accident factors according to BoatUS, the industry’s recreational boating organization. And they can be alleviated by following these rules:
*The best life jacket is the one you will wear. It’s recommended checking the jacket’s label to insure it’s approved for your type of boating. For children, don’t be tempted to put a child in an ill-fitting life jacket.
*Boating safety reports indicate that operator inattention, improper lookout (if water skiing/boarding), operator inexperience, excessive speed and alcohol rank as the top five primary contributing factors in accidents with power boats.
*Remember to wear an engine cutoff switch if your boat is less than 26-feet, traveling on plane or above displacement speed. Engine cutoff switches can prevent boat strike injuries after an operator has been ejected from the vessel, or displaced from the helm.
Three easy rules to adhere to for a safe boating season.
Nick Hromiak has been an outdoors and automotive writer for over 30 years. He's been published in numerous national and state-wide outdoor magazines and newspapers.