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CLEVELAND - The U.S. Coast Guard reported being very busy over the Fourth of July holiday weekend. At least 227 calls came in from Friday morning to around 12 a.m. Tuesday, significantly higher than the same time frames during the previous four years.

But the Coast Guard believes it may be because Independence Day fell on a Monday this year and weather was favorable for boaters.

Coast Guardsmen saved 16 lives, helped 379 people, saved $2.3 million worth of property and conducted 591 recreational boat safety checks. Of those checks, nine operators were cited for boating under the influence, something that continues to be a problem on the water.

"Drinking and operating a boat is just as dangerous and irresponsible as drinking and driving an automobile," said Frank Jennings Jr., recreational boating safety program manager for the Ninth Coast Guard District in a news release. "When you combine drinking and boating with a large volume of additional boaters in the area and operating at night in an unfamiliar environment, you have a recipe for disaster. Boat responsibly by leaving the alcohol at home."

There were also 22 citations for safety violations. Most common was boating without the appropriate number of life jackets for all on-board or lacking the required throwable floatation device.

Other common violations included mariners who weren't carrying visual distress signals or who had expired flares on board, boats lacking navigation lights and unregistered or improperly registered boats.

"Safety regulations are in place because they work and they're proven to help prevent accidents on the water or drastically increase survivability following accidents," said Rear Adm. Michael Parks, commander of the Ninth Coast Guard District in a news release. "Anyone who enjoys water-related activities on the Great Lakes should understand the risks involved and take necessary steps to ensure they will enjoy their outing and return home safely."

Despite the sizeable number of responses, Coast Guardsmen did report they saw many boaters wearing their life jackets.

"We can never stress enough the importance of wearing a life jacket while underway so we were thrilled to learn a large number of boaters made the decision to wear one," said Jennings. "A life jacket is one of the most important pieces of life-saving equipment available to the boating community."
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