The first big summer holiday weekend is at hand, and this is National Safe Boating Week — perfect timing for Early Show consumer correspondent Susan Koeppen to dive in with pointers to help you avoid accidents.
The Coast Guard estimates 70 million people will hit the water this summer, more than ever. But the service warns that there are nearly 5,000 boating accidents each year, causing thousands of injuries and almost 700 deaths.
Koeppen ventured to Chelsea Piers in Manhattan, where she boating safety expert Keith Ammons -- what else?! -- hopped on a boat! Ammons, who's with the National Marine Manufacturers Association (http://www.nmma.org/), demonstrated new safety products for boating: an auto-inflatable life jacket, a child life jacket, a canine life jacket, an emergency position locator, and a carbon monoxide detector.
Ammons says the most dangerous mistake people can make when on a boat is not wearing a life jacket. Drowning is the No. 1 cause of deaths in boating accidents, and nearly 90 percent of people who drown aren't wearing a life jacket: People don't want to, because they're too hot and uncomfortable and bulky. The products Ammons displayed address many of those issues.
For details on the products, click here.
Koeppen pointed out that, just as many vehicular accidents are caused by driver error, the same can be said of boating accidents.
Some states require people operating boats to have a license, and there are plenty of boating courses that teach how to safely operate a boat and handle emergency situations. Some of the classes are free -- the Coast Guard and Red Cross are good places to start. Prices rsnge from none -- free! -- to $100 or so.