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Boating Safety

Boating safety is very important

As warmer weather approaches and more people plan to recreate near or in the water this holiday weekend and through the summer months, now is the time to think water safety.

Drowning is the nation's second leading cause of accidental death for children. yet, it is possible just by wearing a life jacket or taking other precautions to reduce drowning deaths. An estimated 70 percent of reported boating fatalities in 2004 occurred on boats where the operated had not received safety instruction, and of those victims who drowned, nearly 90 percent were not wearing life jackets.

The President signed a proclamation May 12, making May 20-26 National Safe Boating Week. He urged all Americans to learn more about safe boating practices and always engage in proper and responsible conduct while on the water. He also noted the 35th anniversary of the Federal Boat Safety Act, which has helped reduce the number of recreational boating deaths in our country.

"By taking simple precautions such as wearing a life jacket, taking a boating safety course, getting a Vessel Safety Check, and never boating under the influence of alcohol or drugs, we can continue to save lives and reduce the number of accidents and injuries that occur each year," the proclamation states. National Safe Boating Week is an annual nationwide event that precedes Memorial Day weekend and is dedicated to raising the awareness of boating safety. The campaign's theme, "Wear It!" is designed to emphasize the importance of each boater wearing a life jacket.

Here are safety tips from the Corps of Engineers to help recreation seekers stay safe in water over the summer.

Alcohol and water activities don't mix

Approximately one-third of all boating accidents and fatalities involve alcohol. Just one beer can impair balance, vision, judgment, and reaction time. Research shows that four hours of boating exposure to noise, vibration, sun, glare, and wind produces fatigue that simulates drunkenness. Boating fatigue combined with alcohol consumption intensifies the effects of both and increases accident risks.

Boaters should know the rules

Boaters should take appropriate safety classes, be familiar with governing state laws and have proper safety equipment onboard before boating. Many states require boater education or boat operator licenses. As an added incentive, most insurance companies offer discounts to boaters who have successfully completed a boating safety course.

Wear a life jacket don't just carry one on board. Make sure it is U.S. Coast Guard-approved and appropriately sized. Most states require children under the age of 13 to wear life jackets. Know your state law.

Don't overload the boat (consider boat size, the number of passengers, and extra equipment before loading). Check your boat for all required safety equipment. Carry a set of navigational charts. Follow manufacturer's suggested procedures before starting the engine. Check the weather forecast. File a float plan with family or friends who are not on the vessel.

Learn to swim

Surprisingly, two-thirds of those who drown never had the intention of being in the water. Watch your children at all times when around the water. Never dive into lakes and rivers the results can be tragic. Never rely on toys such as inner tubes and water wings to stay afloat. Don't take chances by over-estimating your swimming skills. Reach or throw a floatation device to help someone in trouble. Don't go in the water. Swim only in designated swimming areas. Never swim alone.

Water safety must be a top priority for everyone using the nation's waterways and lakes this summer. An estimated 360 million people visit U.S. Army Corps of Engineers recreation areas nationwide annually.

Make your visit to any recreation area a safe and enjoyable one. Taking water safety precautions saves lives maybe your own.

Federal Recreation Areas in New England

There are numerous opportunities to enjoy recreation at federal flood control reservoirs in New England throughout the summer. Most areas feature small lakes with facilities designed for day use such as picnicking, swimming, boating, fishing, and hunting. There are also a few facilities for overnight camping. Most Corps-managed recreation areas are open from Memorial Day through the middle of September.

There are beaches and boat ramps available at reservoirs and lakes in Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire and Vermont. For more information go to the Corps' New England District web site at and click "recreation" and select your state and location on the map to find out what recreation areas are available near you or go directly to the recreation webpage at More information on what is offered at each location is available from the park manager listed on the webpage of the specific reservoir or lake of interest.