Summer is fast approaching. For many, that means undertaking the annual ritual of getting their boats ready for the boating season. The U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary reminds boaters it is important that we give as much thought and attention to safety precautions for ourselves and our passengers as we do in the maintenance on our vessels to keep them in top condition.Over 500 people drown each year in recreational boating accidents, a staggering figure. This can be greatly reduced by adhering to a very simple strategy: “Wear It.” Wear your life jacket at all times when operating on the water.National Safe Boating Week, May 18 through May 24, is the kickoff to the 2019 North American Safe Boating Campaign. Safe boating advocates, including the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, offer a number of safety tips to keep in mind this boating season:1. Wear a life jacket every time you are out on the water. The 2018 Recreational Boating Statistics compiled by the United States Coast Guard showed that over seventy percent of fatal boating accident victims drowned. Of those, almost eighty-five percent were not wearing a life jacket.NOTE: Life Jackets must be readily accessible; not in packaging or buried below other gear. 2. Make sure all of your life jackets are U.S. Coast Guard-approved and in good condition with no rips or tears. Replace worn out jackets so when needed, they will provide the buoyancy necessary to keep you afloat and alive.3. Size matters when it comes to life jacket selection and use. When boating with children, make sure they are wearing properly sized and fitted life jackets. Children must not be able to slide out of life jackets when they hit the water.4. Don’t operate a vessel while impaired by alcohol or drugs. Alcohol use is the leading contributing factor in fatal boating accidents; it was listed as the leading factor in 17% of deaths in the 2018 boating statistics.5. Pay attention to your surroundings and boat responsibly. Operator inattention, operator inexperience, improper lookout, machinery failure, and excessive speed rank as the top five primary contributing factors in 2018 boating accidents.The U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary will be having an “Meet and Greet” at the Sparta VFW, 66 Main Street, Sparta, every fourth Wednesday of the month at 7 p.m. Next meeting will be on May 22. Come see what we’re all about. We are always looking for new members!For information about the 2019 National Safe Boating Week and the North American Safe Boating Campaign, go to: http://www.safeboatingcampaign.com/For information about getting your Boating Safety certificate in order to obtain your NJ boating license call 201 503-5433.