PORTSMOUTH, Va. — The Coast Guard and the Virginia Marine Police are reminding boaters this Labor Day weekend to be safe.
Boaters should follow these safety tips to be safe time on the water during the remainder of the summer:
- Life jackets save lives. Out of all the 2012 fatal boating accidents where drowning was the cause of death, 85 percent were reported as not wearing a life jacket. Accidents can leave even a strong swimmer injured, unconscious and exhausted in the water.
- Boating under the influence or boating while intoxicated is just as deadly as drinking and driving. It is illegal to operate a boat while under the influence of alcohol or drugs in every state. Penalties for violating BUI and BWI laws can include large fines, suspension or revocation of boat operator privileges and jail. Alcohol use is the leading contributing factor in fatal boating accidents.
- File a float plan. A float plan states where you are going and how many people are aboard your vessel. It also gives a vessel description, details your destination and what time you expect to arrive there. If you are delayed for some reason, make sure you let someone know.
- A VHF-FM radio is the best method of communication while on the water. Although cell phones are a good backup, they can be unreliable due to gaps in coverage area and are reliant on batteries.
- Check the local weather prior to departing the dock. Weather can change rapidly, and a watchful eye on the forecast conditions is key to safety.
- Have nautical charts of the area you are boating in, a global positioning device and a reliable means of communication aboard your vessel.
- Obtain a free, no-fault vessel safety check, which can be conducted by the Coast Guard Auxiliary, before heading out on the water. The safety checks are courtesy examinations of your vessel, verifying the presence and condition of certain safety equipment required by state and federal regulations.