“You’re in command,” is the U.S. Coast Guard’s public boating safety outreach initiative which encourages all recreational boaters to take responsibility for their actions on the water.

As a boat owner or operator, you are responsible for your safety and the safety of your passengers. That’s why we say, “You’re in command. Boat responsibly.”

Remember to wear a life jacket.

Why should I wear my life jacket?

As a boat operator, you’re responsible for the safety of your passengers. But accidents can, and do happen with terrifying speed on the water. There’s rarely time to reach stowed life jackets.

The U.S. Coast Guard urges you and your passengers to wear your life jacket all the time while underway.

New life jackets are attractive and easy to wear

Things to know

Certain life jackets are designed to keep your head above water and help you remain in a position which permits proper breathing. To meet U.S. Coast Guard requirements, a boat must have a U.S. Coast Guard-approved Type I, II, III, or V life jacket for each person aboard. Boats 16 feet and over must have at least one Type IV throwable device as well. All states have regulations regarding life jacket wear by children. Adult-sized life jackets will not work for children. Special life jackets are available. To work correctly, a life jacket must be worn, fit snugly and not allow the child’s chin or ears to slip through. Life jackets should be tested for wear and buoyancy at least once a year. Waterlogged, faded, or leaky jackets should be discarded. Life jackets must be properly stowed. A life jacket, especially a snug-fitting flotation coat or deck-suit style, can help you survive in cold water.

How do life jackets save lives?

When capsized in rough water. When sinking in unexpectedly heavy sea conditions. When thrown from the boat as a result of a collision. When injured by rocks or submerged objects. When unconscious from carbon monoxide fumes. When tossed into freezing water. When thrown off balance while fishing. When unable to swim because of heavy or waterlogged clothing. If you have questions or would like more information about life jackets, call 1-800-368-5647.

Never boat under the influence

Your peripheral vision, night vision, focus and ability to distinguish colors (particularly red and green) diminish. Your inner ear can be disturbed; making it impossible to distinguish up from down if you fall in the water. A physical sensation of warmth may make it easier to fall victim to hypothermia. Your cognitive abilities and judgment deteriorate. Your balance and coordination are impaired. Your reaction time decreases.

A boat operator with a blood alcohol concentration above 0.10 percent is estimated to be more than ten times as likely to die in a boating accident as a sober operator. Most states and the federal government have a BAC limit of .08 percent.

It’s illegal to operate a boat, any boat, from a canoe, rowboat, or personal watercraft to the largest vessel,under the influence of alcohol or dangerous drugs. The U.S. Coast Guard and local law enforcement agencies cooperate to enforce stringent state and federal laws. Penalties can include large fines, suspension or revocation of boat operator privileges and even jail time.

If you are determined to be operating a vessel while intoxicated, the Coast Guard may board your vessel, arrest you, detain you, terminate your voyage until you are no longer intoxicated, or turn you over to state or local authorities.

Are you under the influence?

Other ways to enjoy boating

Never use dangerous drugs. Be aware of the effects of certain prescription medications and consider these alternatives to alcohol. Consider having no alcohol aboard. Intoxicated passengers are also at risk of injury and falls overboard. Take other cool drinks, like sodas, water, iced tea, lemonade, or other, non-alcoholic beverages. Bring plenty of food and snacks. Wear clothing that will keep you and your passengers cool in the summer, warm in the winter. Limit your trip to avoid fatigue.