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U.S. Coast Guard offers boating tips for Fourth of July

 The United States Coast Guard and its auxiliary civilian volunteers  urge  boaters to use extra caution while boating during the upcoming July 4 holiday — which includes Friday through Sunday. 

The Fourth of July, along with Memorial Day and Labor Day, typically account for more than one-third of all boating-related accidents and fatalities in the U.S. In light of these dangers, the Coast Guard and Auxiliary  offers these tips to stay safe while boating this weekend and all summer:

Boaters relax on Cheat Lake on Wednesday.
  •  Always wear a life jacket: While in many areas of the country it’s hot and steamy, don’t be tempted to forgo wearing a life jacket. Accidents happen quickly and often there isn’t time to put on a life jacket once they’ve happened. National statistics consistently show that as many as 80% of those who died in boating accidents were not wearing life jackets.
  • Make sure your boat is properly equipped and that required equipment is functioning. The Fourth of July is sometimes the first and only time people venture out on the water after dark. Make sure your navigation lights work so you can be seen. Better yet, request a free Vessel Safety Check at to make sure your boat has all the legally required and recommended equipment on-board.
  • Be prepared for emergencies: Take the time to familiarize your crew with basic emergency procedures, and show them how to contact authorities for help via marine radio or cell phone. If you boat in an area that requires flares, make sure they are up-to-date, but never use flares as a form of fireworks. Doing so constitutes a false distress call, which is a class D felony, punishable by up to six years in prison and up to $250,000 in fines, plus the cost associated with the false distress.
  • Boating and alcohol do not mix: Along with decreasing the operator’s ability to make good judgments, the consumption of alcohol also negatively affects the ability of passengers to respond in the case of an emergency on the water. The effects of the sun, wind, waves and a boat’s motion in the water can add to an operator’s impairment. Intoxicated boaters can face  federal and state charges with penalties of up to one year in prison and up to $100,000 in fines.
  • File a float plan with a friend: A float plan for a boater is similar to a flight plan for a pilot. It lists who is going, where you’re going, what the boat looks like and when you expect to be back. Don’t file this with the Coast Guard; rather, share it with a friend who will be staying ashore, and instruct them what to do if they don’t hear from you within a reasonable time of coming home. Visit for a complete plan, along with instructions. 
  • Keep a sharp lookout for other boats, the weather, or anything that is unusual: The Coast Guard asks the public to be more aware of their surroundings, including carefully watching the weather and celebrating responsibly. Any suspicious activity that might involve terrorism should be reported to America’s Waterway Watch — National Response Center at 877-24-WATCH. If there is immediate danger to life or property, call 911 or the U.S. Coast Guard on Very High Frequency (VHF)-FM Radio Channel 16.
  • Practice the 3 Cs — caution, courtesy and common sense: Exercise caution, especially in close quarters maneuvering with other boats. In such situations, slow speeds are better. Be courteous to your fellow boaters and use common sense. Don’t cut people off at the launch ramp. 

The United States Coast Guard Auxiliary is composed of uniformed, civilian volunteers who assist the U.S. Coast Guard in all of its varied missions, except for military operations and direct law enforcement actions. For more information on the Auxiliary, visit us at

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