CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - In preparation for the Fourth of July and increased boating traffic during the next several months, the Coast Guard is reminding the public to boat responsibly for a safe and enjoyable holiday and summer.
Coast Guard crews, including many from the Coast Guard Auxiliary, will be on the water conducting safety checks and keeping a lookout for vessel operators who are intoxicated or operating in an unsafe manner.
Independence Day is a holiday known for drinking and boating - and deadly accidents. During 2012, alcohol was the leading contributing factor in nearly 17 percent of recreational boating fatalities in the United States. In South Carolina there were five deaths, 12 injuries and 14 accidents with alcohol use as a contributing factor, and in Georgia, there were four deaths, eight injuries and eight accidents with alcohol use as a contributing factor.
"Operating a vessel while intoxicated is just as dangerous as operating any other type of vehicle while intoxicated and will not be tolerated," said Lt. Cmdr. Derek Beatty, of Coast Guard Sector Charleston. "Coast Guard boatcrews, as well as other federal, state and local partners, will be patrolling the area to keep boaters operating in an unsafe manner off the water."
The Coast Guard is also reminding mariners that flares are to be used for emergencies only, not as fireworks. Improper use of flares may divert valuable search assets from an actual distress case and put rescuers unnecessarily in harm's way while responding to the false alarm.
The following are additional things boaters should do to ensure their safety on the water:
* Always wear a life jacket. Since there is little time to reach for stowed life jackets when accidents occur, wearing one at all times reduces the risk of drowning. Federal law requires a personal floatation device aboard for each passenger.
* Carry a VHF-FM marine-band radio. If you are in distress, you can reach the Coast Guard on marine-band channel 16, the distress channel. The Coast Guard, other rescue agencies and other boaters monitor marine band radios 24/7, which increases the number of people who can respond. Though a cell phone is better than no communication device at all, they tend to have gaps in coverage while on the water and have limited battery life.