Coast Guard to Boaters: "You're In Command."
New outreach campaign challenges boaters to new level of safety

By Wayne Spivak

Every year, on an average, approximately 700 recreational boaters die on American waterways. Over seven thousand more are injured. Property damage runs into the hundreds of millions. These accidents are particularly tragic because they happen to people and families out for pleasure and relaxation. Yet, almost all could be prevented with a few simple steps on the part of the boat owner or operator.

Recent attitudinal research sponsored by the United States Coast Guard Office of Boating Safety confirmed a strong suspicion: Most boaters believe they are safe enough already. They equate boating safety with equipment—like life jackets, fire extinguishers, and radios—and forget that safety is really a matter of their own behavior.

Meanwhile, congestion on America's waterways continues to grow. As a result, there is only one group that has the power to make accident rates go down. That group is the boat owners and operators themselves.

Therefore, the Coast Guard, in partnership with the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, United States Power Squadrons®, National Safe Boating Council, National Water Safety Congress, and the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators, is introducing a new national recreational boating safety outreach program. The campaign asks recreational boat operators and owners not only to boat safe – but also to boat safer. It asks them to take new steps to ensure their own safety, and the safety of passengers and other boaters.

The message? You're in Command. Boat safely.

“You're in Command” will focus initially on four actions boaters can take to vastly improve safety on the water.

Get a Vessel Safety Check.
This program provides a bow-to-stern inspection of a boat's condition and safety equipment. Experienced members of the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary and United States Power Squadrons perform the checks—and a VSC is the best way to identify safety issues and violations before they become problems on the water. "You're in Command" will publicize the program, encourage boat owners to seek a VSC once every year, and also attempt to recruit more Vessel Examiners to perform the Vessel Safety Checks.

Take America's Boating Course.
This new electronic course is sponsored by the Auxiliary and Power Squadrons, and is recognized by the Coast Guard. It makes boating safety instruction easily accessible to a vast segment of the population that may never invest the time to attend traditional safe boating classes. "You're in Command" will promote boating courses -- specifically the convenience of ABC.

Wear Your Life Jacket.
Nothing would reduce boating fatalities faster than universal life jacket wear. Most boaters carry life jackets, but few wear them consistently while underway -- this despite the fact that most boating fatalities are caused by drowning. Through "You're in Command," the Coast Guard challenges all boaters to wear life jackets while underway, and hopes that the new styles of compact and inflatable life jackets will make this practice much more common.

Never Boat Under the Influence.
Boaters must understand that the effects of alcohol and even some prescription medications are multiplied dangerously by waterborne stressors like wind, sun, vibration, and noise. The Coast Guard recommends no alcohol on board -- and will use the "You're in Command" campaign to strive for a significant reduction in the instance of inebriated boaters on the water.

"You're in Command" is timely, given the Coast Guard's dramatic new role in homeland security. The equation is simple: the more recreational boaters take responsibility for their own safety, the more time and resource the Coast Guard can devote to protecting our ports and waterways from waterborne threats.

The message will be delivered in a variety of media, including print, web, television, radio, public and media outreach, and partnerships with boating safety groups, dealers, manufacturers, and related industries.

The Coast Guard is encouraging every boater or boating organization interested in boating safety to get on board with "You're in Command." Boaters can go to for a variety of resources, links, and free information.

Help do your part to reduce accidents and save lives. After all -- when it comes to boating safety

– “You're in Command.”