More than 730 people died in the United States as a result of recreational boating accidents in 2009, a 3.81 percent increase from 2008. Many more were injured and millions of dollars worth of property was lost in accidents that probably could've have been prevented with the proper training and equipment.
Boaters are reminded of seven crucial life saving practices as they head out for Memorial Day:
Always Wear a Lifejacket - Almost three-fourths of all fatal boating accident victims drowned, and of those, 84 percent were not reported as wearing a life jacket.
Invest in an EPIRB - An Emergency Position-Indicating Radio Beacon or a Personal Locator Beacon can help take the search out of search and rescue.
Invest in a VHF Radio - Boaters are reminded that cell phones only work so far offshore. A VHF radio can serve as a dependable means of communication during an emergency at sea.
Don't Drink and Boat - Alcohol use is the leading contributing factor in fatal boating accidents.
Take a Boating Safety Course - Approximately 76 percent of all fatal accidents occurred on a vessel with an operator who had no formal boating safety instruction.
Get a Vessel Safety Inspection - Even if you pay careful attention to safety, dangerous mechanical problems can crop up on the best-maintained boats. That's why the Coast Guard recommends that all recreational boaters take advantage of the free Vessel Safety Check program every year.
File a Float Plan - A float plan is simply letting a reliable loved one or friend know where you are going, when you are going to be back and what kind of vessel you have. That person can call the Coast Guard if you don't return on time and save critical minutes during a search and rescue operation.
Boaters should remember that they are in command and that they may save more than their life by practicing safe boating. They may save the life of someone they love.
For more information, visit www.uscgboating.org.