After recent drowning, reader says life jackets needed

Published 11:52 am Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Dear Editor:

I was disheartened to read of the grandfather who drowned trying to save his grandson.

Few persons realize that the largest group of boating deaths is among fishermen, who view their boats as transportation and don’t wear life jackets because they interfere with fishing.

The second largest group is hunters, who view their boats like fishermen but have the added liability of heavy clothes that make swimming impossible.

The third group, amazingly, are canoeists and kayakers who feel that going slow and being close to the water make the need for life jackets unnecessary.

It’s not until the fourth group that we reach recreational boaters, including skiers, which go faster and which seem the most at risk. It is because of that realization, however, that many wear life jackets. As evidence of a life jacket’s value, jet skis make up only 8 percent of the registered boats in America but are involved in 30 percent of boating accidents. Despite their high accident rate, they only make up 10 percent of boating deaths because wearing a life jacket is absolutely required to ride one.

Children under 12 are required to wear one and knowing it is the single largest factor between simply getting wet or drowning, everyone should wear one on the water. The grandfather’s death was a horrible tragedy, but if it serves as a warning to others on the importance of life jackets, then it will not have been in vain.

– James R. Montgomery

Captain, U.S. Coast Guard