New Year’s resolution for boaters

Are you looking to make a New Year’s resolution that you will not only enjoy keeping, but will also keep you safe when going out on the water? If so, then resolve to boat safely and more thoughtfully in 2014. The Coast Guard Auxiliary offers the following suggestions for recreational boaters in meeting this worthwhile resolution.

• "I will always wear a life jacket while underway." Statistics show that 71% of all fatal boating accident victims drowned, and of those casualties, 85% were not wearing a life jacket. Life jackets must be United States Coast Guard approved and in an appropriate size and type for the wearer. The jacket should fit snugly and all straps, buckles and zippers must be secure.

• "I will get a vessel safety check prior to the start of boating season." This free service provided by the Coast Guard Auxiliary ensures that a vessel and its equipment comply with federal, state, and local safety requirements. Some of the items inspected include fire extinguishers, horns, visual distress signals, life jackets, navigation lights, and backfire flame arrestors.

• "I will take a boating safety course to enhance my knowledge of safe boating practices." Boating safety courses are offered online as well as in a classroom setting. The costs associated with these courses are quite reasonable. Even beginner courses will give you the knowledge needed to obtain a boating safety license or certificate in many states, as well as discounts on your boat insurance from many insurance companies.

• "I will not operate a vessel when impaired by drugs or alcohol." It is illegal to operate a boat while under the influence of alcohol or drugs in every state. Alcohol impacts judgment, vision, balance, and coordination, and increases the likelihood of mishaps while afloat. Coast Guard data indicates that in boating deaths involving alcohol, the majority of victims either fell overboard or capsized their vessel.

• "I will not dump waste in area lakes and rivers while boating." Have a trash can or trash bag on board when you go out on the water, and use it appropriately. Never dump sewage from your boat into the water, and watch for fuel spills when you fill up your tank at the marina. Let's keep our waterways clean so that they can be enjoyed by everyone for many years to come.

• "I will not transport invasive species from one body of water to another." Prevent the spread of zebra mussels, quagga mussels, and other invasive species by observing the following clean boating suggestions: (a) inspect your boat and remove any suspected mussels or weeds, (b) drain water from your bilge, motor, and livewell before leaving any lake or river, (c) dump any leftover bait on land, away from the water, and (d) thoroughly rinse and dry your boat before going from one body of water to another.

• "If going offshore, I will have a working VHF radio and Emergency Position-Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB) on board." Being able to use this equipment in the event of an emergency can be the difference between life and death. Not only will such equipment allow for communication with the Coast Guard and other parties, but it can save countless hours in a search and rescue situation.

• "I will volunteer to help others needing assistance." When you encounter a disabled vessel out on a local lake or river, see if you can provide them with assistance. They may have run out of gas or suffered a mechanical failure. You might be able to offer to tow them to safety, or to provide a communications relay so that they can call for assistance. And if you have an interest in boating safety and wish to find a meaningful volunteer position, check out the Coast Guard Auxiliary.

For more information about vessel safety checks, boating safety courses, and other services provided by the Coast Guard Auxiliary, call (816) 682-6552 or visit us online at http://a0853001.wow.uscgaux.info

The United States Coast Guard Auxiliary is composed of uniformed, non-military volunteer civilians who assist the Coast Guard in all of its varied missions, except for military and direct law enforcement. These men and women can be found on the nation's waterways, in classrooms and on the dock, performing safety patrols, vessel safety examinations and public education.

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