HUNTINGTON, W.Va.– As Memorial Day Weekend approaches, West Virginians are taking to the water. Boating is a very popular summertime activity, but precautions need to be taken to ensure safety.
This week is National Boating Safety Week, and the U.S. Coast Guard held an event on boating saftey at David Harris Riverfront Park in Huntington Wednesday.
The Safe Boating Campaign is a global effort that focuses on being responsible while boating, reminding boaters to always wear a life jacket when on the water. It is led by the National Safe Boating Council and has support from boating safety advocates around the world.
While it might be tempting to not wear a life jacket while on the water, accidents can happen in an instant.
Coast Guard Dimitri Georgoulopoulos said that there are many ways boaters can stay safe on the water.
“One of the biggest things we have to say to the public going out there, make sure you do all your float plans, stuff like that, make sure you have your life jackets. Do not drink and boat– that’s one of the worst things you can do. It makes our job a whole lot harder,” he said. “Make sure you have the weather accounted for and things like that. Just be safe.”
According to recent U.S. Coast Guard statistics, drowning was the main cause of death in 80 percent of all boating fatalities in 2016, and of those deaths, 83 percent were reported as not wearing life jackets.
Georgoulopoulos said the Coast Guard also sees lots of boating accidents because of drivers of boats who are intoxicated.
“Number one safety tip I have for the people out there is do not drink and boat. That is one of the biggest things and one of the biggest accidents and deaths on this river alone is boating under the influence, so do not drink,” Georgoulopoulos said.
He understands that boaters would like to have a good time, but for those driving, drinking should not occur.
“You’re allowed to drink. Just if you’re operating the vessel, don’t drink,” he said. “You can have a good time without drinking and just keep it at a minimum.”
The U.S. Coast Guard works to keep boaters on West Virginia’s waters safe, especially in the summer.
Story by Jordyn Johnson