^ Recreational Boating Holiday with Alcohol: Picture Perfect or Recipe for Disaster?
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Trouble in the Holiday Paradise
All work and no play make Jack a dull boy. As is for play, so is for recreation and entertainment. There is nothing like a weekend spent relaxing in close proximity to nature after a week of hard, focused work. Holidays are the time we let our hair down and recharge our batteries.
But then, there are two sides to every coin. Letting your hair down is fine. So is letting your guard down, for otherwise you cannot relax. But if you throw caution to the winds, you expose yourself to grave perils.
Such lack of prudence perhaps explains the frequency of mishaps with people on holiday. Not that there are no accidents when people are at or travelling to work. But the whole issue of holiday accidents makes us more uneasy. We are supposed to enjoy. Accidents ensure the opposite.
In its 2015 Recreational Boating Statistics Report, the United States Coast Guard (USCG) blames alcohol for causing most recreational boating fatalities, 17% of them. Why? Simple. Consumed immoderately, alcohol further lowers our guard. Disaster is only waiting round the corner.
There is nothing new about the phenomenon though. Back in the nineteenth century, industrial workers often took Monday off to recover from Sunday’s drinking spree. Employers looked to eliminate this Saint Monday in order to boost productivity and profits.
Coming back to present, the 626 casualties in 2015 represent the third lowest number of recorded fatalities in a year, although the death rate has climbed from 5.2 deaths per 1,000 registered recreational vessels in 2014 to 5.3 per 1,000.
As with everywhere else, negligence, in one form or another, continues to be the major killer in recreational boating incidents. The report ascribes numerous injuries and casualties to victims not wearing life jackets or the operator not being well versed with onboard safety procedures.
What the Report Says?
Recording a total of 4,158 accidents that killed 626 persons, injured 2,613, and caused property damage worth around $42 million, the report highlights the following:
- In comparison to 2014, the number of mishaps rose by 2.3% and number of deaths by 2.6%. The number of injuries however came down by 2.4%
- Fatality rate has gone up by 1.9% – from 5.2 deaths per 1,000 registered recreational vessels in 2014 to 5.3 per 1,000 in 2015
- Alcohol use, misuse rather, was the chief cause of 17% of deaths
- The five major reasons for accidents include:
- operator inattention
- operator inexperience
- improper lookout – lack of vigilance
- machinery failure
- excessive speed – speed kills and so does the holiday hysteria that inspires over-speed in the first place
5. Of all the casualties whose cause was known, 76% were due to drowning
An astounding 85% of those who drowned were not wearing life jackets, clearly indicating negligence or ignorance or both
6. 80% of those who drowned used vessels under 21 m in length – longer ships are usually more stable
7. A total of 22 children aged below thirteen expired:
- 12 died from drowning – 2 drowned despite wearing life jackets
- 5 of the remaining 10 who drowned, were not wearing life jackets because state regulations did not require them to do so
8. While only 15% of casualties occurred on vessels with trained operators, a massive 71% occurred on boats with operators not trained in safety procedures
9. Of the known vessel types, the highest percentage of deaths was recorded on:
- open motorboats 46%
- kayaks 12%
- canoes 11%
10. According to available data, vessels most involved in accidents included:
- open motorboats
- personal watercrafts
- cabin motorboats
11. Propellers were the cause for 158 accidents that killed 27 and were responsible for 150 injuries
12. In 2015, a total of 11,867,047 recreational vessels were registered marking a 0.5 hike over the 11,804,002 vessels registered in 2014
Alcohol: The Age-Old Trouble Maker
Perhaps it is the taste, perhaps the soothing effect, or perhaps it is the escape it offers, temporarily of course, from the myriad challenges that life always brings with itself. Drinking alcohol is one of those things common to many cultures – ancient, medieval, and modern.
Evidence suggests the practice dates as far back as 7000 B.C., right to the Stone Age. Some cultures fermented fruit juice while others made the intoxicant using honey or grain. In fact, the Babylonians worshipped wine goddesses in 2700 B.C.
What alcohol does is it changes the levels of neurotransmitters in the brain. Neurotransmitters are the chemical messengers that transmit messages in the body and, through this, control processes, behavior, and emotion. Drinking alcohol slows down thought, speech, and movement.
Although definitive findings are awaited, research suggests alcohol triggers the release of endophrin, a pain killer. It also indirectly stimulates the release of dopamine in some areas of the brain. Dopamine is the pleasure hormone that makes us feel good. But, there is more.
Excessive drinking of alcohol causes accidents, loss of productivity, and health ailments apart from being at the root of many socio-economic evils such as indebtedness, unemployment, crime, and violence.
According to the Center for Disease Control, alcohol abuse cost around $249 billion for the American economy in 2010 through impaired productivity, mortality, criminal acts and imprisonment, health care, and motor vehicle crashes. In excess, alcohol is not just bad, it is dreadful.
National Recreational Boating Safety Program
National Recreational Boating Safety (RBS) Program operates with the stated mission:
to ensure the public has a safe, secure, and enjoyable recreational boating experience by implementing programs that minimize the loss of life, personal injury, and property damage while cooperating with environmental and national security efforts.
In accordance with its mission, the National RBS Program has an eleven-point Strategic Plan:
- tracking and increasing the number of safety-trained boaters
- conveying effective boating-safety messages to relevant audiences
- raising the number of boaters for on-the-boat instruction
- studying and hiking the life jacket wear rates
- boosting the boater’s knowledge and compliance of navigation rules
- reducing boating under the influence (of intoxicants)
- lowering the number of defective vessels
- increasing boater adherence to carriage requirement regulations
- improving the precision of accident reporting
- researching and developing boating safety practices
- evaluating the efficacy of grants from non-profit organizations
Analysts use data from the Recreational Boating Statistics Report in order to measure results against targets related to casualty reduction, compliance with navigation rules, and alcohol use.
Wise men say, the key to liberty lies in eternal vigilance. Now recreational boaters or any holiday goers will contradict this and say vigilance and enjoyment don’t go hand in hand.
While they are not totally wrong, they are not completely right. For, there is a very thin line between relaxation and complacency. Fail to grasp this and you could end up on the wrong side of the hull.
Happy and Safe Boating!
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