The Coast Guard reported on Tuesday that Alaska had suffered 10 boating fatalities in 2013, the lowest since 2009, with alcohol use and not wearing life jackets the main culprits behind seaborne deaths nationally.
The Coast Guard said it was also observing National Safe Boating Week, through Friday, to encourage safe boating practices and prevent recreational boating accidents.
The National Safe Boating Council and partner agencies in the U.S. and Canada timed the week to coincide with Memorial Day weekend, one of the biggest recreational boating weekends of the year.
The Coast Guard’s 2013 Recreational Boating Statistics publication reported 560 boating fatalities last year nationwide, the lowest number on record.
The report said that alcohol use was the leading contributing factor in fatal boating accidents and almost 77 percent of all fatal boating accident victims drowned, with 84 percent of those victims not reported as wearing a life jacket.
“The Coast Guard encourages all boaters to be responsible while on the water and avoid the consumption of alcohol. The use of life jackets, emergency beacons, flares, float plans and appropriate communications devices are advised for anyone operating watercraft,” it added.
To ensure compliance with boating safety requirements, Coast Guard Auxiliarists will be offering boat inspections and safety classes in many coastal Alaskan towns during the week.
“Alaska’s weather can change with little to no warning and it’s important for boaters to plan appropriately before heading out to enjoy Alaska’s pristine waters,” Mike Folkerts, recreational boating safety coordinator, Coast Guard 17th District, was quoted as saying in the statement.
“The Coast Guard encourages mariners to always wear their life jackets, have a reliable means of communication onboard their vessel like a VHF radio and to file a float plan with friends, family or their local harbormaster before leaving port,” Folkerts added.
National Safe Boating Week was co-organized by the Coast Guard Auxiliary, United States Power Squadrons, BoatUS and the American Canoe Association.