CHARLETON, SC (WMBF) – In preparation for the Fourth of July, the Coast Guard is reminding the public to boat responsibly during the holiday, and for the next several months when there typically is increase in boating traffic.
Coast Guard crews will be on the water conducting safety checks, and keeping a lookout for vessel operators who are intoxicated or operating in an unsafe manner.
Independence Day is a holiday synonymous with drinking and boating. Along with this comes deadly accidents. The Coast Guard says that during 2012, alcohol was the leading contributing factor in nearly 17 percent of recreational boating fatalities in the US. South Carolina accounted for 5 of those deaths, along with 12 injuries and 14 accidents with alcohol use as a contributing factor. In Georgia, there were four deaths, eight injuries and eight accidents with alcohol use as a contributing factor.
"Operating a vessel while intoxicated is just as dangerous as operating any other type of vehicle while intoxicated and will not be tolerated," said Lt. Cmdr. Derek Beatty, of Coast Guard Sector Charleston. "Coast Guard boat crews, as well as other federal, state and local partners, will be patrolling the area to keep boaters operating in an unsafe manner off the water."
The Coast Guard also reminds mariners that flares are to be used for emergencies only, and not as fireworks. Improper use of flares may divert valuable search assets from a true distress call and put rescuers in unnecessary harm while responding to the false alarm.
The following are additional things boaters should do to ensure their safety on the water:
- Always wear a life jacket. Since there is little time to reach for stowed life jackets when accidents occur, wearing one at all times reduces the risk of drowning. Federal law requires a personal floatation device aboard for each passenger.
- Carry a VHF-FM marine-band radio. If you are in distress, you can reach the Coast Guard on marine-band channel 16, the distress channel. The Coast Guard, other rescue agencies and other boaters monitor marine band radios 24/7, which increases the number of people who can respond. Though a cell phone is better than no communication device at all, they tend to have gaps in coverage while on the water and have limited battery life.
- Have a float plan. A float plan is a life-saving device on paper that lets family and friends know when and where you embarked and expected time of return. File a float plan with someone who is not getting underway and stick to the plan. If you change plans, contact the person. A float plan saves valuable time by providing responders with vital information about an overdue boater who may be in distress. Float plans are available at www.floatplancentral.org
Additional information on safe and secure boating practices can be found at the Coast Guard's Office of Boating Safety page at http://www.uscgboating.org.