These figures are staggering. What jumps out to me is the one item that is the easiest to prevent- accidental drownings. It’s easy to say “wear a lifejacket” sitting in an armchair in the living room, but another thing entirely to do so, every time underway. I myself have been guilty of complacency regarding lifejackets, I am asking you all to keep me, and each other, honest about staying safe and wearing a lifejacket. Many of us are so comfortable aboard the boat, we easily forget just how dangerous the water below us can be. With so many lifejackets on the market, it can be overwhelming to decide exactly which lifejacket to buy. When teaching a Boating Safely course for the US Coast Guard, I heard an instructor say, the best lifejacket you can own is one you will wear. Here is a link to the US Coast Guard’s “How to choose a lifejacket” guide: How to Choose the Right Life Jacket guide.
In the days of inflatable lifejackets, we have little excuse not to don one. So, you ask, when is one necessary? I suggest it is necessary whenever the boat is underway, so long as you are not in the cabin. (If you are in the cabin, it is considered unsafe to wear a lifejacket, as the lifejacket may prevent your quick egress in an emergency) Things happen so quickly on the water you may or may not have time to put your jacket on, if you are not already wearing it. If you decide not to wear your lifejacket, the Coast Guard requires that your lifejacket be immediately available, not stowed in a locker below out of reach.