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Think safety over Fourth of July holiday: Corps emphasizes water safety at federal recreation areas during the holiday weekend, summer months

Published June 23, 2014

CONCORD, Mass. – As the Fourth of July holiday weekend approaches and summer vacation is here for many and the temperatures climb higher, more and more people will be recreating near or in the water in New England. Now is the time to think about water safety and boating safety. Each year, an average of 3,880 people drown in the United States. In fact, drowning is the leading cause of injury death for children, aged 1-4. Yet, it is possible – just by wearing a life jacket or taking other precautions – to reduce drowning deaths.


In 2012, of the 651 recreational boating fatalities, nearly 71 percent were drownings, and 85 percent of those victims were not wearing life jackets, according to U.S. Coast Guard statistics. In 2012, the Coast Guard counted 4,515 accidents that involved 651 deaths, 3,000 injuries and approximately $38 million of damage to property as a result of recreational boating accidents; 73 percent involved boat operators who had not received any boating safety instruction. These USGS statistics are available at: Efforts by water safety organizations might be making some progress to reduce accidents and deaths, as Coast Guard boating statistics indicate that in 1997 there were 8,047 accidents, 4,555 injuries and 821 deaths; and in 1998 there were 8,061 accidents, 4,612 injuries and 815 deaths.


The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which manages nearly 12 million acres of public lands and waters nationwide, offers the following safety tips to help recreation seekers and their families stay safe in the water over the Fourth of July holiday weekend and through the hot summer months.


                                                   Alcohol and water activities don't mix

Alcohol is a leading contributing factor to fatal boating accidents, according to water safety officials. Just one beer can impair balance, vision, judgment and reaction time. Research shows that four hours of boating – exposure to noise, vibration, sun, glare and wind – produces fatigue that simulates drunkenness. Boating fatigue combined with alcohol consumption intensifies the effects of both and increases accident risks.


                                                       Boaters should know the rules

Boaters should take appropriate safety classes, be familiar with governing state laws and have proper safety equipment onboard before boating. Many states require boater education or boat operator licenses. As an added incentive, many insurance companies offer discounts to boaters who have successfully completed a boating safety course. While boating make sure you wear a life jacket – don't just carry one on board.  Make sure life jackets are U.S. Coast Guard-approved and appropriately sized. Most states require children under age 13 to wear life jackets. Know your state law! Don't overload the boat (consider boat size, the number of

passengers and extra equipment before loading). Check your boat for all required safety equipment. Carry a set of navigational charts. Follow the manufacturer's suggested procedures before starting the engine. Check the weather forecast and get weather updates, and notices of potential storms. File a float plan with family or friends who are not on the boat so someone will know if you are late to return or missing altogether.


                                                              Watch your children

Make sure you or someone responsible is watching your children when they are in or near the water. It only takes a child an average of 20 seconds to drown, according to water safety officials. Watch your children at all times when they are around the water. Don’t let them wander very far from the adults and never let them go into the water unless you know it.


                                                          Learn to swim/know your limits

About two-thirds of those who drown never had the intention of being in the water. It makes sense to learn to swim if you will be around water. Never dive into unfamiliar lakes and rivers – the results can be tragic. Never rely on toys such as inner tubes and water wings to stay afloat. Don't take chances by over-estimating your swimming skills. Reach or throw a floatation device to help someone in trouble. Swim only in designated swimming areas and never swim alone. About half of all drowning victims are alone when they drown.


Water safety must be a top priority for everyone using the nation’s waterways and lakes this upcoming holiday weekend and through the summer. There are an estimated 370 million visits to U.S. Army Corps of Engineers recreation areas nationwide annually ( Make your visit to any federal recreation area a safe and enjoyable one. Taking water safety precautions saves lives – maybe even your own.


                                                      Federal Recreation Areas in New England

There are numerous opportunities to enjoy recreation at the 31 Corps-managed federal flood risk management protection reservoirs and the Cape Cod Canal in New England this Fourth of July holiday weekend and throughout the summer. Most areas feature small lakes with facilities designed for day use such as picnicking, swimming, boating, fishing and hunting. There also are a few facilities for overnight camping. Most Corps-managed recreation areas in New England are open through the middle of September.


There are beaches and boat ramps available at reservoirs and lakes in Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire and Vermont. For more information visit the Corps’ New England District web site at and select “recreation” and then select your state and location on the map to find out what recreation areas are available near you or go directly to the recreation webpage at More information on what is offered at each location is available from the project website or the local park manager.


For those who want to camp, the National Recreation Reservation Service (NRRS) makes it possible for campers to make reservations for campsites at New England District’s campgrounds, as well as nearly 40,000 Corps of Engineers and Forest Service campsites nationwide. The toll free number is (877) 444-6777 and the website is                                                    

Tim Dugan

Release no. 2014-080