Ocean City MD–  The 2014 National Safe Boating Week campaign kicks off Saturday, May 17 with Coast Guard Auxiliary units promoting recreational boating safety around the nation.  The campaign – which runs through May 23 — is dedicated to helping boaters understand the need for boating education and Vessel Safety Checks, as well as the importance of wearing life jackets while boating.

In Ocean City, the Coast Guard Auxiliary is hosting a kickoff event at West Ocean City Boat Ramp on May 17 to reinforce the safe boating message during NSBW, including free vessel safety checks at local marinas. Coast Guard Auxiliary, as well as the US Coast Guard, will have information and demonstrations to help you understand how to be safe on the water.

“National Safe Boating Week gives us an opportunity to reflect on the safe operation of boats on the water.  The incidents we study bring home the need for simple safety precautions while underway,” said Rob Sersen, Coast Guard Auxiliary Sector Baltimore Captain.

According to the Coat Guard’s 2012 Recreational Boating Statistics, nation-wide there were 4515 accidents that involved 651 deaths, 3000 injuries and approximately $38 million dollars of damage to property as a result of recreational boating accidents.

Almost seventy-one (71) percent of all fatal boating accident victims drowned, and of those, almost eighty-five (85) percent were reported as not wearing a life jacket.

Less than fourteen percent (14) of deaths occurred on boats where the operator had received boating safety instruction. Only nine (9) percent of deaths occurred on vessels where the operator had received boating safety instruction from a NASBLA approved course provider.

• Operator inattention, operator inexperience, improper lookout, machinery failure, and excessive speed rank as the top five primary contributing factors in accidents.

• Alcohol use is the leading contributing factor in fatal boating accidents and is listed as the leading factor in 17% of deaths.

“We encourage everyone to wear their life jackets and use a ‘kill switch’ while boating, “ Sersen said. “Frequently, we see young children in life jackets, but their parents are not wearing them. All of us need to find a life jacket that fits, is comfortable, and wear it to protect ourselves and set a good example for others. I wish the boaters of Maryland a safe boating season.”

Come down to West Ocean City Boat Ramp between the hours of 0800 and 1200 and learn about Trailering your boat, how to use your VHF radio including the Digital Selective Calling (DSC) group calling feature. Learn what it is like when your automatically inflatable life jacket finds that you are the water. There will be something for all age groups and all levels of experience to learn at city dock. You can learn how to become a volunteer and help keep the waters safe.