SOURCE: Miller Brewing Company

August 31, 2005 15:30 ET

U.S. Coast Guard Reminds Boaters They're in Command During Busy Labor Day Weekend

Accidents Can Happen Quickly on Nation's Crowded Waterways

WASHINGTON, DC -- (MARKET WIRE) -- August 31, 2005 -- For many Americans, Labor Day will be celebrated on the water. The holiday is one of the busiest boating weekends in the nation. Inevitably though, the weekend will end in tragedy for someone. According to the U.S. Coast Guard's newly released statistics, there were 4,905 boating accidents resulting in 676 fatalities in 2004. That translates to more than 13 boating accidents and two deaths every day somewhere on the nation's waterways.

According to the Coast Guard report, approximately 431 lives could have been saved if boaters had worn their life jackets. Drowning was reported as the cause of death for 72 percent of all fatalities. Ninety percent of those who drowned were not wearing their life jacket. *

"Accidents on the water can happen quickly and there's rarely time to reach stowed life jackets," said Captain James Hass, acting director of Coast Guard operations policy. "The sad truth is that many of these injuries and fatalities could have been avoided by wearing a life jacket." Modern life jackets are available in a variety of shapes, colors and sizes. Some are even manually or automatically inflatable, and are as compact as a belt pack.

Boating safety applies to everyone on the water whether they're fishing, hunting, paddling, or just out for an afternoon cruise. The Coast Guard's latest statistics show that approximately one-third of all fatalities involved alcohol. Surprisingly, drinking on the water is potentially more dangerous than drinking on land because the sun, wind, noise, vibration and motion intensify the effect of alcohol and can slow reaction times and impair vision.

Operating a boat with a blood alcohol content of .08 or higher is illegal on all federal waters and in all states. "Being over the legal limit is not only dangerous, but it can also get you arrested," said Hass. "People should remember that boating is even more complicated than driving a car, so if you wouldn't drive under the influence, why would you boat under the influence?"

The United States has 95,000 miles of shoreline and 290,000 square miles of waterways, lakes, rivers and bays. With so much open water, many boaters may find themselves on their own in an emergency. The U.S. Coast Guard message to boaters is that they are ultimately "in command" when on the water. Boat operators are encouraged to take a basic safe boating course and undergo an annual Vessel Safety Check. The safety check is a free bow-to-stern inspection of the boat and is one the best ways to detect potential problems before they happen on the water.

The U.S. Coast Guard asks all boat owners and operators to help reduce fatalities, injuries, property damage, and associated healthcare costs related to recreational boating accidents by taking personal responsibility for their own safety and the safety of their passengers. Essential steps include always wearing a life jacket and requiring passengers to do the same; never boating under the influence; successfully completing a boating safety course; and getting a vessel safety check annually from local U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, United States Power Squadrons®, or your State boating agency's vessel examiners. The U.S. Coast Guard reminds all boaters, "You're in Command. Boat Responsibly!"

To obtain the "You're in Command. Boat Responsibly" Boating Under the Influence (BUI) brochure produced in conjunction with Miller Brewing Company, log on to www.millerbrewing.com/liveresponsibly or www.uscgboating.org. For more information on boating responsibly, go to www.uscgboating.org or call the U.S. Coast Guard Infoline -- 1-800-368-5647.

*All figures are the latest available data from the U.S. Coast Guard's "Boating Statistics 2004," the most recent publication on reported recreational boating accidents. The full report is available at www.uscgboating.org/statistics.

Contact Information