This July 4 weekend Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks officials urge boaters to wear a life jacket and avoid consuming alcohol if responsible for operating a boat.
The U.S. Coast Guard reported 672 boating fatalities nationwide in 2010, and 4,604 accidents. Of the fatalities, about 75 percent drowned, and of those, roughly 90 percent were not wearing a life jacket, U.S. Coast Guard officials said.
In Montana, of the 44 boating fatalities in the past seven years, 29 involved individuals who were not wearing a life jacket.
"Whether you are an operator or a passenger this July 4 weekend, avoid alcohol and always wear your life jacket," said Ron Jendro, FWP boating law administrator.
"Boating accidents cost lives and damage property, but in many cases these accidents are easily avoidable by following safe boating practices," Jendro said.
Operator inattention, improper lookout, operator inexperience, excessive speed, and alcohol use are the most common contributing factors in accidents that the Coast Guard estimates cost boaters about $35 million in 2010.
"Alcohol was the leading factor in 19 percent of the boating deaths reported in 2010 nationwide," he said.
According to the U.S. Coast Guard there is also a clear link between safety and boating education.
"The statistics show that boaters who take a boating safety course are less likely to be involved in an accident," Jendro said.
"We can save lives if we can convince people to wear a life jacket and avoid alcohol when they are on the water," Jendro said.