Boating is a wonderful Summer activity! So many amazing memories can be made on a family trip, all while having fun in the sun. However, these memories can quickly turn sour if something bad were to happen on your trip. That’s why it’s important you take precautions while boating, even on smaller vessels, to make sure everyone is safe and having fun.
The Importance of Boat Safety
Although boating is fun, it can be dangerous if not taken seriously. There are certain things everyone must do to be safe on the water.
Every year there are between 600 and 700 fatalities from boating accidents. Boating accidents make up 13% of all accidents (1).
Boating safety isn’t just about implementing these tips, but also about being prepared for an emergency. Always have emergency boat supplies on your boat before you leave the dock.
Boating Safety Tips You Should Never Forget
1. Avoid Alcohol
Alcohol clouds judgment and interferes with good decision making.
Did you know…
The chances of getting into a boating accident doubles after the consumption of alcohol! (2)
If you want to drink alcohol, wait until you are safely at the dock and are on shore. Once you drink alcohol, you should not be driving.
There are strict penalties for operating a boat while intoxicated. Penalties include large fines and getting your driver’s license suspended.
Alcohol use is the leading contributing factor to boat accidents. It was listed as the leading contributing factor in 15% of boating accident deaths. (3)
Do yourself a favor and skip out on the alcohol while you’re on a boat. You definitely won’t regret it.
2. Always Wear a Life Jacket
Always wear a life jacket. This is one of the most important safety tips for boating.
You should still wear a life jacket even if you think you’re a good swimmer. The water may be shockingly cold, your clothes could become waterlogged, you could be injured and unable to swim, or you could be fatigued.
Most drowning victims were found NOT wearing a life jacket. (4)
In fact, 80% of boating accident victims drowned. Of that 80%, 83% were not wearing life jackets. (5)
Children younger than 13 are required to always wear a life jacket on a boat.
Make sure you’ve tried on your life jacket before you go out on the water. The jacket should fit snugly without being able to slip off. Put your arms straight over your head and have someone tug on the jacket. You’ll need a smaller jacket if it slips off.
Some life jackets are even designed to flip unconscious wearers face up. However, these life jackets are more expensive and require more maintenance. They are also not recommended for people younger than 16 years old.
Find your specific fit and style of life jacket before heading out on to the water.
3. Check the Weather
Just because your entire family got all packed and ready for a boat trip, doesn’t mean you should go out on the water in a storm. It’s better to cancel than to have an accident.
Never try your luck at boating during a storm. Lightning, rain, and large waves can cause boats to tip or crash.
Check the weather beforehand to make sure it’s safe to go out on the water and that you won’t get caught in a storm unable to get back to shore.
Hazardous waters and weather is the most common cause of boating accidents, although drowning is the top cause of death. (6)
One of the keys to avoiding being caught in a storm is to look for signs that one is coming. Don’t wait until the storm is already upon you. Wind, choppy water, and a darkening sky mean that a storm is approaching. Head back to shore, don’t wait to see if it will clear up.
It’s a good safety practice to take a map or a navigational system with you while you’re out on the boat. This way, you’ll be able to find your way back to shore even if it’s stormy.
4. Practice Safe Speed
There are certain parts of the water that will have speed limits or no wake zones. These should always be obeyed.
People frequently swim in the more shallow parts of the water and if you’re going too fast you might not see them.
Other parts of the water don’t have speed limits.
You can still be cited for excessive speed or reckless operation of your boat. This puts other people at danger.
Excessive speed is defined as a “speed greater than is reasonable or prudent without regard for conditions and hazards or greater than will permit a person to bring the boat to a stop within the assured clear distance ahead.” (7)
Excessive speed is listed as one of the top 5 contributing factors in boating accidents. Along with operator inattention, operator inexperience, improper lookout, and machinery failure. (8)
Use your common sense and never go faster than necessary.
5. Take a Boating Safety Course
Are you ready for this?
The US coastguard estimates that 70% of boating accidents are caused by operator error! (9)
Taking a boating safety course will significantly reduce the likelihood of an accident happening.
Another shocking statistic tells us that 77% of deaths occurred on boats where the operator did not take a boating safety course or boating instruction. Only 13% of deaths occurred on boats where the operator received a certificate for a nationally-approved boating safety course. (10)
The class will teach you how to safely dock the boat, how to drive the boat, how to operate the boat safely, and what to do in case of an emergency. Including any necessary emergency items you should have on your boat.
Any person that wants to drive the boat should take a safety course, especially if their age is between 26-50. This is because 52% of boating accidents involve drivers that are somewhere in that age range.
What’s the Bottom Line?
Don’t be scared to go boating! Amazing memories await you!
Make sure you take these safety tips into account before you go on a boating adventure and everyone will have a good time and come back safe and sound.
And for added safety, consider stowing some of these key safety items aboard your boat--just in case!