An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Press Release | May 18, 2024

Coast Guard urges safety during National Safe Boating Week, Memorial Day weekend



ALAMEDA, Calif. — The Coast Guard and Coast Guard Auxiliary celebrate National Safe Boating Week, May 18 through May 24, and urge mariners and beachgoers to be safe this Memorial Day weekend.



Memorial Day weekend is considered by many as the unofficial start to the recreational boating season. As boaters take to the water, there is an increased likelihood for search and rescue situations, mechanical failures and accidents.

In calendar year 2022, the Coast Guard counted 4,040 accidents that involved 636 deaths, 2,222 injuries and approximately $63 million dollars of damage to property as a result of recreational boating accidents.

However, 2022 recreational boating season saw a decrease of boating accidents and deaths. Nationwide, recreational boating accidents that resulted in death decreased from 2021 by 3.3%. The months of May, June and July specifically saw the highest number of deaths in boating accidents.

"Boating under the influence continues to be one of the leading causes of accidents and deaths within the boating community,” said Doug Leavell, Coast Guard District Eleven Recreational Boating Safety Specialist. “When it comes to boating and alcohol, save it for the shore!”

Continuing in 2024, the focus is on educating mariners on the new labeling of personal flotation devices (PFD). PFDs will no longer be labeled type one through five, but instead will be labeled with performance level, turn ability, and warnings. These new labels do not make any previously labeled lifejackets obsolete. More information on this topic can be found at New Life Jacket Labels - Safe Boating Campaign.

Additionally, as of April 20, 2021, regulation for disposable fire extinguishers mandates a 12-year expiration date from the date of manufacture. Boaters can find the manufacture date stamped into the bottom of the bottle or near the Underwriter Laboratory (UL) label. More information on this topic can be found at

The Coast Guard will ramp up its enforcement posture of the new Engine cut-off law. 

The short of it: Engine cut-off switch (ECOS) wear requirements apply when:

  • Vessel is less than 26 feet in length and 3 or greater horsepower.
  • The vessel is a recreational vessel.
  • The vessel has a functional ECOS installed.
  • Vessel is being operated at planning speeds.
  • The boat does not have an enclosed steering station/wheelhouse.

Notes and Exclusions:

  • Open motorboats less than 26 feet in length built after January of 2020 are required to be equipped with an ECOS and that ECOS must be maintained and worn as outlined above.
  • Boats built before that date are not required to have one.
  • Boats built before that date that have one do not have to keep it in working order, but it is highly recommended.
  • An ECOS that is not in working order does not have to be worn.

· Electronic/tether less kill switches may be used in the place of the manual/tethered type kill switch. See FAQs for more details:

The Coast Guard recommends mariners heed the following safety tips below to help ensure their safety while on the water:

  • Always wear a Coast Guard-approved life jacket while underway. In 2022, Drowning was determined to be the leading cause of deaths in boating accidents. 86% of those drowning cases, the individuals weren’t wearing a lifejacket. People don’t typically have time to locate and don a life jacket during an actual emergency.
  • Make sure your life jacket is properly fitted. People can slip out of ill-fitting life jackets when they hit the water, which decreases their chances of survival.
  • Don’t drink and boat. Aside from wearing a life jacket, not drinking and boating is one of the easiest ways to prevent accidental deaths on the water. Alcohol use is the leading known contributing factor in fatal boating accidents; where the primary cause was known, it was listed as the leading factor in 16% of deaths. People operating vessels under the influence of alcohol, drugs or impairing medication pose a serious threat to you and anyone else aboard.
  • Make a VHF radio your go-to means of communicating in an emergency. Cell phones may go out of range or lose battery power when needed most. Make sure you familiarize yourself with how to use it.
  • Take a boating safety course. The Coast Guard Auxiliary is one of many organizations that offer valuable boating safety courses ranging from electronic navigation to boat handling. Click here to register for a boating safety course.
  • Get a vessel safety check. The Coast Guard Auxiliary provides free boating safety checks. Get a free safety inspection from the Coast Guard Auxiliary to make sure you have all the gear and safety equipment required by your state and federal laws. Click here to find one near you.
  • Look at the weather and tides before you head out. It might look like a nice day, but squalls and shifting tides can change suddenly.
  • File a float plan. Tell someone where you’re going and when you’ll be back. Float plans provide a starting point to help find you if something happens.
  • Dress for the water, not for the weather. Check water temperatures before you go out and dress accordingly.
  • Know your navigation rules. Know how to properly navigate waterways and maintain lookouts to keep yourself and everyone else around you safe.
  • Locator beacons can help us find you faster. Attaching a functioning EPIRB to your boat, or a PPIRB to your life jacket, and knowing how to use them can help rescuers find and help you. In order to be most effective, these should be registered with the owner’s information and emergency contacts.
  • Label kayaks and paddlecraft. The Coast Guard often comes across adrift paddlecraft, and when they are properly labeled, it is easier for rescue personnel to confirm if there is an actual distress and save countless hours of searching when a person is not in distress.
  • Check out the Coast Guard Boating Safety appYou can file a float plan, request assistance, request a vessel safety check, and report pollution and hazards to navigation.

Additionally, beachgoers throughout California need to be aware of the dangers along the coast such as cold water, dangerous surf, sneaker waves and rip currents. California has seen a recent spike in the number of deaths due to sneaker waves over the past year. It is recommended that beachgoers look at the surf report to identify hazardous water conditions before visiting beaches.

  • Sneaker waves are deadly, larger-than-average swells that suddenly surge much farther up the beach following periods of quiet surf and smaller waves. NOAA recommends that beachgoers watch the waves for 15-30 minutes to identify how far up the beach waves are reaching.
  • Rip currents can occur wherever there are breaking waves. They don’t pull people under water but can pull even the strongest swimmer far out to sea. People caught in a rip current should swim parallel to the shore until they are outside of the rip current, and then swim toward the shoreline.

For more recreational boating statistics from 2022: