The July 4 holiday remains one of the busiest boating weekends of the year, and safety advocates say life jackets could play a pivotal role in keeping boaters out of harm’s way this holiday.

Research conducted by the U.S. Coast Guard continues to indicate that wearing a life jacket is the No. 1 safety precaution boaters can take on the water. In 2005, 87 percent of boating fatality victims who drowned were not wearing life jackets.

“When you are heading out to the water for a day of relaxation on your boat, the last thing you usually think about is the possibility of running into trouble,” said Virgil Chambers, executive director of the National Safe Boating Council, the organization that produces the annual “Wear It!” campaign. “But accidents happen in an instant, and if you aren’t wearing your life jacket, the reality is that you probably won’t have time to reach for a stowed one.”

This year, Christa Miller, star on the hit comedy “Scrubs” and mother of three, is joining the effort, by lending her voice to encourage the women and moms of families in communities across America to be proactive about making sure their family members and friends wear - and don’t just stow - their life jackets.

Known as the safety “gatekeepers” in the family, women, Miller said, can play a huge role in making sure their loved ones make a habit out of staying safe.

“It should just be second nature to put on your life jacket before getting on a boat. It only takes a second - but that second could save your life or the life of someone you love.”

Although life jackets have received more visibility in recent years, a major obstacle to wearing them, says Chambers, is that boaters often think, “It can’t happen to me.” In order to ensure a national dialogue about life jackets and to remind boaters that accidents can indeed happen when least expected, Miller is using her celebrity to promote the national “Be a Survivor!” contest - a summer-long initiative that encourages recreational boaters of all ages to submit their personal stories on how the life jacket has made a difference in their boating experiences. Boaters can enter online at www.SafeBoatingCampaign.com, or by obtaining an entry form at a West Marine store.

As last year’s “Be a Survivor!” entries are compiled in a recently published book entitled “Saved By the Jacket,” Chambers said it helps for boaters to be exposed to survival stories shared by people just like them - people who never would have thought that they could face a life or death situation on the water.

“It’s important that we create an environment where not only the safety advocates are promoting life jacket wear, but boaters are encouraging boaters to wear life jackets. We are grateful for partners like West Marine and Christa Miller, who are making these opportunities possible,” Chambers said.