When people are out boating in the summer, safety can sometimes take a backseat to pleasure. This could be a tragic mistake. In 2020, there were 5,265 boating accidents in the U.S., causing 767 fatalities and 3,191 injuries, as reported by the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG). Enjoy the sun and the water but keep the following boat safety tips in mind.
Don’t Drink While Boating
Alcohol consumption is a major contributing factor in fatal boating accidents. It was the leading factor in 18% of boating deaths in 2020. It is well known that drinking and driving is dangerous. Consuming alcohol can be even more hazardous on the water than on land because the marine environment (wind, waves, sun, vibration) can accelerate an operator’s level of impairment.
Additionally, it is illegal in all 50 states to operate a boat under the influence of alcohol. The legal limit is .08% — the same for operating a boat as driving a motor vehicle on land. The Coast Guard enforces a federal law prohibiting boating under the influence (BUI).
Wear a Life Jacket at All Times
Life jackets save lives. As stated by the Coast Guard, 75% of victims who died in fatal boating accidents in 2020 drowned. Although some state laws only require that life jackets be accessible, not worn, it is much safer to wear them. You may not have time to reach for and put on a life jacket before disaster strikes in a sudden boating accident. With the thin, flexible, compact life jackets available today, there is no reason not to wear one on the water.
Watch Out for the Propellers
The Coast Guard reports 247 boating accidents in 2020 in which a propeller struck at least one person. Accidents involving propellers caused 39 deaths and 241 injuries. Before starting the engine, it is essential to ensure all passengers are accounted for and no one is in the water near the boat. Watch children carefully and do not allow them to sit where they could fall near the propellers.
Perform a Boat Safety Check
Before you set out:
- Do a routine safety check of the boat.
- Make sure you have a full tank of gas.
- Check engine oil and transmission fluid levels.
- Ensure your battery is fully charged and electronic and other components are in good working condition. The boat should be stocked with safety equipment, including a fire extinguisher, boat lights, extra batteries, cell phone, flares, maps, and a first aid kit.
Pay Attention to the Weather
Before you leave the dock, check the local weather and the forecast for your destination. Always have a radio onboard. Keep an eye out for inclement weather, and get off the water as soon as possible if dark skies, wind shifts, choppy water, or lightning appear.
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