As summer weather heats up, water fun activities entice families and friends nationwide. Hitting the waves in the family boat is a plan wrought with fun, freedom, and adventure for all involved. But serious boating accidents occur annually and often without warning. According to Coast Guard reports, almost 4,300 recreational boating accidents occurred in 2017. These included 2,629 injuries, 658 fatalities, and over $45 million dollars in property damage. While the fatalities saw an almost 7% decrease from the previous year, boating safety is still a serious subject that must be addressed and prepared for prior to each outing. Fortunately, there are some basic tips to help avoid a summertime boating accident altogether.
Maintain Your Craft
Running out of fuel, faulty wiring and other craft issues can lead to dangers away from the safety of land. Checking and maintaining your boat may seem like an excessive and daunting detail, but it’s a lot better than the alternative. And good news… you don’t have to do it alone. The United States Power Squadrons and U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary can provide a certified free Vessel Safety Check around your schedule. Simply fill out the form and they’ll take it from there. There’s no charge and absolutely no consequence for failing the check, so why waste another day worrying?
Take a Class… Or Several
Whether you’re a novice or veteran boating enthusiast, you’ll need to be familiar with boat safety rules and operation requirements. These standards vary from state-to-state, so taking a professionally run physical or even online boating course is the best way to ensure safety all season long. These lessons will also help ensure you pay attention and watch your speed, both of which lead to serious boating accidents. While you’re at it, ensure safety for all by taking updating yourself with swimming lessons and providing or encouraging swimming instruction for all family members. The American Red Cross is a great place to start for professional instruction for all ages and abilities.
Alcohol often adds to summertime fun, but it should never be consumed prior to or while operating any type of vehicle. This includes boats of any kind. Not only does a boating accident double when alcohol is involved, but fatalities occur in approximately 17% (16.67%) of those accidents. Effects of alcohol are exacerbated by natural forces such as sunshine and wind. So if alcohol needs to be part of the excursion, at least wait until water fun’s done for the day and everyone’s safely on land.
Make Sure Everyone On Board Wears a Life Jacket
Anything can happen on the water, and the combination of strong waves and inclement can be a deadly concoction. Regardless of how experienced a swimmer anyone on the vessel happens to be, a rough toss can lead to serious injuries or worse. According to national industry reports, approximately 80% of boating fatalities from known causes in 2016 were caused by drowning. And 83% of those victims didn’t wear a life jacket. Boating safety doesn’t have to be a chore, but it does require common sense and planning. So think ahead and follow the above tips to avoid serious boating accidents and have the best summer ever.