PORTSMOUTH -- The Coast Guard is stressing the importance of safe boating and swimming practices in the wake of 40 drowning deaths that occurred from northern New Jersey to southern North Carolina this summer.

Of the 40 boating or swimming-related deaths, 34 people were not wearing lifejackets, officials said.

'Regardless of how a person ends up in the water, wearing a lifejacket is the single most important precaution a person can take to increase their chances of survival when things go wrong,' said Capt. William Cameron, 5th District response chief. 'We are losing too many people for easily-preventable reasons here in the Mid-Atlantic region.'

Precautions that are critical to staying safe on the water:

  • Wear a lifejacket.
  • Swim in areas with lifeguards.
  • Get a free, local vessel safety check.
  • Take a boating safety course. Operator error accounts for 70% of boating accidents.
  • Be aware of local weather and currents.
  • File a float plan. There are too many facts that need to be accurately remembered and conveyed in an emergency situation. Without a float plan you are counting on someone else, a friend, neighbor, or family member, to remember detailed information rescue personnel need in order to find you.
  • Don't operate a boat or swim while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Alcohol consumption is responsible for 16% of boating fatalities - the leading contributing factor in recreational boating deaths.
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