Good Morning Commissioner Castro, Captain Spillman (Chief Search and Rescue, Boston District 1) and Captain Merkle (Deputy Commander, Activities, New York), representatives of the States here this morning - Colonel Dick Murray, Massachusetts Boating Law Administrator, and New Jersey Boating Law Administrator Ed Docker and Trooper Jeff Andres, and Brian Kempf, New York Boating Law Administrator. It also is a pleasure to meet Ruth Wood from the BOAT/US Foundation representing the National Safe Boating Council. I am honored to be here this morning representing the National Transportation Safety Board.
I have been a recreational boater for nearly 20 years and I am here today because of my personal commitment to water safety and meeting the ultimate objective of saving lives and significantly reducing injuries.
Chairman Ellen Engleman and my fellow Board Members send their regards and best wishes for a successful kickoff. I am pleased that the State of New York has asked the National Transportation Safety Board to be part of this important ceremony. We are extremely excited about the opportunities to improve recreational boating safety. This kickoff represents the start of a new boating season -- and we want it to be a safe and enjoyable season for everyone.
The start of the boating season could not be better for this year's theme of the Safe Boating Campaign -- "BOAT SMART. BOAT SAFE. WEAR IT!" The National Safe Boating Council can take pride in this year's campaign and their efforts to reduce boating fatalities. The Safety Board also notes with great satisfaction the progress the boating community has made in saving lives. However, we must remain ever vigilant to the fact that nearly 700 boaters die each year and about 80 percent of them were not wearing lifejackets.
This year's campaign stresses the importance of that key piece of safety equipment -- the life jacket. Today, we have seen some of the new life jacket equipment engineered for recreational boating use. This new equipment is comfortable to wear. They are flexible and very visible. Life jackets also are not just for children, but for everyone. We all know that when properly fitted, life jackets prevent tragedies.
Due to previous effective safety initiatives including mandatory education, increased enforcement of alcohol and boating laws, and now with life jacket safety improvements and mandatory usage laws -- we are in a great position to substantially reduce casualties in recreational boating from the current 700 fatalities per year to a level of perhaps 500 per year. I am particularly impressed by the energy level exhibited at this kickoff where the partners involved in boating safety "meet the press." It is extremely important that the media join with us in addressing safe boating -- not just today, but throughout the entire boating season.
In conclusion, the Safety Board will do its part to keep recreational boating safety on the national agenda. We will continue to support State and Coast Guard safety initiatives -- mandatory education, mandatory wear of life jackets for children, operator licensing, and strengthened boating while intoxicated laws.
Once again I would like to thank Commissioner Castro and Boating Law Administrator Brian Kempf for their invitation for us to speak on this important day in support of improved recreational boating safety. The location, the hospitality and the importance of this day will not be forgotten. I thank you for all of your hard work and dedication to the importance of boating safety. And I know that working together we can make this the safest boating season ever!