Recreational boating is fun, but it can be deadly: 626 people were killed in boat-related accidents nationwide last year, including eight in New Jersey, according to the National Safe Boating Council.

NSBC Executive Director Rachel Johnson stressed the importance of wearing a life jacket, considering 85 percent of drowning victims in recreational boating fatalities were not wearing a flotation device.

"Quite simply: It is the number one life-saving device that you can wear out on the water to ensure your safety," said Johnson.

Johnson encouraged anyone who thinks they don't need a life-jacket to think again.

"We hear these excuses: I'm a good swimmer; I'm close to shore; I don't need that life jacket. Unfortunately, every single accident presents its own situation," Johnson said.

In 2015, there were a total of 4,158 recreational boating accidents, resulting in the 626 deaths, and 2,613 injuries, according to the U.S. Coast Guard.

In New Jersey, Johnson said boating accidents went up from 111 in 2014 to 122 last year. "Unfortunately, the real tragedy behind this, is deaths went up from only 3 in 2014 to up to 8 in 2015 in the state of New Jersey," she said.

Johnson pointed out, "Last year, alcohol use was the leading contributing factor to accidents. Boating in itself is such a fun, wonderful, family-friendly activity, you don't need alcohol to make it anymore so."

She added alcohol can impact environmental stressors.

"Things like the sunshine, the waves, the sound of your motor running on your boat, all of these environmental stressors can put an added strain on your body if you do have alcohol in your system."

A small silver-lining that Johnson noted, "in that the past 36 months of recreational boating have seen the lowest recorded deaths in history nationwide."

Life Jackets can help ensure that boat rider is even safer.

“You’re canceling out so many of those unknowns, should you have an accident,” said Johnson.

Life Jackets come in all different styles and sizes for adults, children and pets and should be U.S. Coast Guard-approved. They should always be checked for rips or mildew before heading out.

In addition to wearing a life jacket, Johnson also suggested all boaters take a safe boating course before going out for the first time, have a float plan ready for each trip, and keep an eye on the weather before and during the boat ride.


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