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News Release
RI Department of Environmental Management
235 Promenade Street, Providence, RI 02908
(401) 222-2771 TDD/(401) 222-4462

For Release: May 20, 2014
Contact: Gail Mastrati 222-4700 ext. 2402

DEM ENVIRONMENTAL POLICE OFFICERS AND BOATING SAFETY ADVOCATES URGE BOATERS TO ALWAYS WEAR LIFE JACKETS WHILE ON THE WATER
Outreach Campaign Being Held in Conjunction with National Safe Boating Week and Upcoming Memorial Day Weekend Kickoff of Summer Boating Season

PROVIDENCE - Environmental police officers from the Department of Environmental Management are teaming up with boating safety advocates across the United States and Canada this week to promote safe and responsible boating, including consistent life jacket wear each and every time boaters are on the water. The safety campaign is being held in conjunction with this week's observance of National Safe Boating Week.

National Safe Boating Week marks the official launch of the 2014 North American Safe Boating Campaign. This year-long campaign promotes safe and responsible boating and the value of voluntary life jacket wear by recreational boaters through the national theme, "Wear It!" In addition, the campaign reminds boaters of the importance of boating safely, boating sober, knowing navigational rules and having a proper lookout. U.S. Coast Guard statistics show that nationwide, drowning was the reported cause of death in almost three-fourths of recreational boating fatalities in 2012, and that 85 percent of those who drowned were not wearing life jackets.

"That's why boating safety advocates continue to push for increased and consistent life jacket wear on the water," said Lieutenant Steven Criscione, boating safety coordinator for DEM's Division of Law Enforcement. "Today's life jackets are comfortable, stylish and easy to wear. In fact, they don't even have to be jackets anymore." Lieutenant Criscione noted that old-fashioned, bulky orange life jackets have been replaced with innovative options, such as inflatable life jackets, allowing mobility and flexibility for activities like boating, fishing, paddling or hunting, and are much cooler in the warmer weather.

Recreational Boating Safety Facts

According to the U.S. Coast Guard's 2012 Recreational Boating Safety Statistics, the latest official record of reported recreational boating accidents:
  • Drowning was reported as the cause of death in almost three-fourths of all fatalities.
  • Approximately 85 percent of those who drowned were not wearing life jackets.
  • In 2012, the Coast Guard counted 4,515 accidents that involved 651 deaths, 3,000 injuries and approximately $38 million of damage to property as a result of recreational boating accidents.
  • Approximately 14 percent of deaths occurred on boats where the operator had received boating safety instruction.
  • Operator inattention, operator inexperience, improper lookout, machinery failure and excessive speed are the top five primary contributing factors in accidents.
  • Alcohol use is the leading contributing factor in fatal boating accidents; it was listed as the leading factor in 17 percent of the deaths.
  • Twenty-four children under age 13 lost their lives while boating in 2012. Forty-two percent of the children who died in 2012 did so from drowning.
  • The most common types of vessels involved in reported accidents were open motorboats (47%), personal watercraft (19%) and cabin motorboats (15%).
The full report is available online at: www.USCGBoating.org/statistics/accident_statistics.aspx.

Life Jacket Facts:

Today's Life Jacket: Style, Variety and Comfort

Most boaters know they're required to have a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket on board for every passenger on their boat. Boating safety advocates recommend that all boaters and passengers not only have a life jacket, but "Wear It!" at all times while boating.

Accidents on the water can happen much too fast to reach and put on a stowed life jacket. Of those who died in boating accidents in 2012, almost three-fourths of all accident victims drowned – and 85 percent of those who drowned were not wearing a life jacket.

The good news is that today's life jackets are much more comfortable, lightweight and stylish than the bulky orange style most boaters know. Life jackets that use inflatable technologies are cool and comfortable. They may resemble a pair of suspenders or a belt pack. Many inflate automatically when immersed in water. Other life jacket styles are available for almost any boating activity.

For fishing: Vest-style life jackets come with features such as pockets and clips to replace the fishing vest and keep the angler safe.

For personal watercraft and water sports: Inherently buoyant lighter-weight life jackets are rugged, with multiple buckles and clasps to keep them secure after impact with the water.

For hunting and cold weather: Full coats and suits are available in camouflage colors for waterfowl hunting and for those who boat when air and water temperatures are cool.

For paddling: Special life jackets are designed with large openings for arms to allow ease of movement and there are belt style life jackets worn on the waist.

For children: Virtually all styles available are sized especially for children - some with cartoon characters, straps for pulling children from the water and high-visibility schemes.

For pets: Life jackets are even available for our four-legged friends. It's helpful to purchase one with a handle on top to easily pull your pet out of the water, if needed.

No matter what the activity or style chosen, the most important thing is this: Remember to grab a life jacket and "Wear It!"

Important Reminders
  • On recreational boats underway in Rhode Island, children under 13 years old must wear a Coast Guard approved life jacket unless they are below decks or in an enclosed cabin.
  • Make sure your life jacket is U.S. Coast Guard approved.
  • Double check that your life jacket is appropriate for your favorite water activities.
  • Take the time to ensure a proper fit. A life jacket that is too large or too small can cause different situational problems.
  • Life jackets meant for adults do not work for children. If you are boating with children, make sure they are wearing properly fitted, child-sized life jackets. Do not buy a life jacket for your child to "grow into."
For more information on boating laws and regulations specific to Rhode Island including the mandatory boating safety education requirement and certification process, visit: www.dem.ri.gov/topics/boating.htm or contact the Department of Environmental Management Division of Law Enforcement at 401-222-2284.

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