With many of you taking to the waters this weekend, to ski, fish, or enjoy fireworks displays, we thought it would be a good idea to remind you of the importance of boating safety. Though the trend has been a decrease in boating accidents and deaths each year, they still occur, many avoidable.

Last year, the Coast Guard reported 4,062 accidents, 2,620 injuries and 560 deaths related to boating.Where cause of death was known, 77% of fatal boating victims drowned. Of those who drown, 84% were not wearing life jackets. Eight of the drowning victims were children under the age of thirteen, five of which were not wearing life jackets which are required by state and federal law.

Inattention, improper lookout, inexperience, excessive speed, and machinery failure are the top five reasons for boating accidents. Alcohol is the leading factor in boating deaths, compelling State Police across the country to start the nationwide campaign, “Operation Dry Water.”

Though some boating accidents may be unavoidable, there are steps you can take to try to prevent them.

  1. Check the weather: Always know local weather conditions before you depart. If you notice darkening clouds, rough changing winds or sudden drops in temperature, you may want to play it safe and get out of the water.
  2. Follow a Pre-Launch Checklist: Be prepared for anything that could happen on the water. The Discover Boating website has a ready-made Pre-Departure Checklist to go by to make sure no boating safety rule or precaution has been forgotten.
  3. Use Common Sense: Operate at safe speeds, particularly in congested areas. Stay watchful and keep clear of large vessels whose size may restrict their ability to stop or turn quickly. Heed navigational aids which have been placed to ensure your safety.
  4. Have Two Captains: If the primary navigator is injured or incapacitated in any way, it’s important to ensure there is someone else on board familiar with the boat’s handling and rules so he or she can get everyone else back to shore safely.
  5. Develop a Float Plan: Always let someone know where you are going and how long you will be gone. It may also be a good idea for your float plan to include:
    1. Name, address, and phone number of trip leader
    2. Name and phone number of all passengers
    3. Boat type and registration information
    4. Trip itinerary
    5. Types of communication and signal equipment on board
  6. Make Proper Use of Life jackets: As stated before, most drowning deaths are the result of victims not wearing life jackets. Don’t let yourself, family and friends become another statistic. Join the North American Safe Boating Campaign and wear your life jacket all the time.
  7. Avoid Alcohol: The risk of boating accidents is high enough. Add alcohol and the probability doubles. Again, it’s the leading cause of boating deaths. Also, if you’re enjoying your drinks under the sun, the heat will only exacerbate the effects of the alcohol. Be smart, don’t drink and boat.
  8. Learn to Swim: This seems like a given, but not everyone who gets on a boat knows how to swim. If you’re going to be around the water, you should take swimming lessons. A life jacket may save your life, but there have been instances where they haven’t. The American Red Cross and others organizations offer swimming lessons for all ages and abilities. Find one offered in your area.
  9. Take a Boating Course: If you’re doing the driving, you should be familiar with the rule of boating operations. Requirements vary from state to state, so you should look for a boating safety course in your area. The US Coast Guard offers information about where to find classes on the website.
  10. Consider a Free Vessel Safety Check: The US Coast Guard offers a boat exam to verify that your boat is safe. They will send a certified vessel examiner who will perform a free Vessel Safety Check (“VSC”) at your boat, and there are no consequences if you don’t pass. They will come to your boat, or you can take your boat to them, whichever you prefer.

Read the US Coast Guards entire report on the 2013 boating accident statistics here.

For more information on boating safety visit the Safe Boating Council website.

For more info about driving while intoxicated you can visit the US Coast Guard Boating Under the Influence Initiatives.

Visit the Discover Boating website to find info on:

Boating with Pets

Boating with Kids