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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release May 14, 1997




America's scenic waterways -- the beautiful lakes, magnificent rivers, and immense oceans at our borders -- are a national treasure. Some 76 million Americans of all ages and abilities -- more than one-fourth of our Nation's population -- take to these vast resources every year to enjoy the beauty of the outdoors, each in his or her own way. But boaters too often forget that, besides being relaxing and fun, boating can be dangerous.

The U.S. Coast Guard's most recent annual statistics reveal 851 fatalities related to recreational boating, a 13 percent increase from the previous year. Tragically, 90 percent of those victims were not wearing a life jacket. Because falling overboard and capsizing are the two leading causes of all recreational boating fatalities, this safety device is essential to boating safety. Refraining from drinking alcohol is also essential to assure safe boating, as more than half of all boating accidents involve alcohol.

Safe-boating education, which is available through a wide variety of sources -- the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, U.S. Power Squadrons, State and local governments, and numerous private organizations -- is another key to accident prevention. Ninety percent of all boating fatalities occur on boats whose operators had no formal boating safety instruction. By word and by example, we must inform and educate both current and future generations of boaters to become knowledgeable boat operators. Learn about safety equipment and the "rules of the road." Then follow a few simple rules: wear a life jacket; never drink while boating; operate at safe speeds; and be alert for weather changes.

By making safety the first priority and emphasizing the necessity for all boaters, especially children, to wear life jackets, we can help to put tragic boating accidents behind us and enjoy more fully the beauty and excitement of the open water.

I commend the U.S. Coast Guard, Federal departments and agencies, States and local governments, and the many recreational boating organizations who are actively promoting saving lives on the water through the theme of this year's campaign: "Life Jackets. They Float. You Don't."

In recognition of the importance of safe boating practices the year-round, the Congress, by joint resolution approved June 4, 1958 (36 U.S.C. 161), as amended, has authorized and requested the President to proclaim annually the seven-day period prior to the Memorial Day Weekend as "National Safe Boating Week."

NOW, THEREFORE, I, WILLIAM J. CLINTON, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim May 17 through May 23, 1997, as National Safe Boating Week. I encourage the Governors of the 50 States, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, and officials of other areas subject to the jurisdiction of the United States to join in observing this occasion and to urge all Americans to practice safe boating habits not only during this week but also throughout the year.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this fourteenth day of May, in the year of our Lord nineteen hundred and ninety-seven, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and twenty-first.


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