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Coast Guard urges extra caution to holiday boaters

BUFFALO -- With more than 150 emergency cases in Lake Erie, Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence Seaway in August, Coast Guard Sector Buffalo is urging those who plan to recreate on the water during Labor Day weekend, or at any other time, to take appropriate safety precautions.

Labor Day weekend marks the traditional end of the beach and boating season across the nation, and is usually one of the busiest for the Coast Guard.

Although the Coast Guard’s efforts in August resulted in 20 lives saved and more than 186 lives assisted, unfortunately 3 lives were lost.  While the Coast Guard fully supports and encourages people to enjoy the beauty of the Great Lakes and the associated waterways, we urge the boating public to take the following proactive steps to help ensure their safety and the safety of others:

  • Wear your life jacket.  All drowning victims this year were not wearing life jackets.  While there are many factors that can contribute to boating/watercraft accidents, a life jacket can save a life even after an accident has occurred.
  • Enjoy alcoholic beverages responsibly - Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York’s legal drinking age is 21-years-old.  The legal blood alcohol content limit for recreational vessel operation is 0.08%.  Dehydration and long term exposure to sunlight exaggerates the effects of alcohol on the body and slows cognitive reaction time.
  • Take appropriate safety precautions when using a kayak, canoe or paddleboard.  Wear a life jacket, monitor the weather and stay clear of busy waterways. Always label your paddlecraft with your name and an emergency contact number.
  • Use caution when operating personal watercraft and other high-powered watercraft.  Stay well clear of other vessels, as larger boats are not nearly as maneuverable or capable of altering course quickly to avoid an accident.  
  • Let friends and family know where you are going and how long you plan to be out on the water.  In the event of an emergency, this information is crucial in providing an efficient and effective response.
  • If you or a family member is in distress on the water, immediately contact the U.S. Coast Guard at 716-843-9527 or via VHF-FM on channel 16.

Media interested in additional information or localized interviews should contact their local Coast Guard station.

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