With almost 12 million recreational vessels registered in the U.S., that means a lot of Americans are spending time on the water. That also means there is ample opportunity for accidents to take place.
According to the U.S. Coast Guard, in 2021 there were 4,439 boating incidents that resulted in 658 deaths, 2,641 injuries and about $67.5 million in property damage. To help keep your family and friends safe this summer, make sure to follow these five important tips.
- Make Life Jackets Non-negotiable
A life jacket is the most important piece of safety equipment you can have whether you are on a motorized or non-motorized vessel. In 2021 the U.S. Coast Guard reported that 81% of boating deaths were due to drowning and 83% of the victims were not wearing a life jacket.
Life jacket regulations vary from state to state, however the National Safe Boating Council encourages boaters to wear life jackets any time they are on a boat, motorized or non-motorized. Remember, the best type of life jacket is the one you wear!
- Always Be Prepared
Before you set out for a day of boating, make sure all of your equipment is in good working order, and check the local weather.
Free vessel safety checks are available through your local U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary. Make sure you have everything you need in your boat including a tool kit, fire extinguisher, and first aid kit by having a pre-departure checklist.
- Don’t Boat Under the Influence
The leading known contributing factor in fatal boating accidents in 2021 was alcohol use. Where the primary cause was known, alcohol was listed as the leading factor in 16% of deaths.
Did you know that alcohol usage is even more hazardous on the water than on land? The motion, vibration, engine noise, sun, wind, and water spray work together to accelerate a drinker’s impairment. These factors, combined with fatigue, can cause a boat operator’s coordination, judgment and reaction time to decline even faster when using alcohol.
- Educate Yourself
There are all types of boating safety courses geared toward boaters of all ages. Courses cover several aspects of boating safety, from how to properly handle a boat to how to read the weather. Popular basic courses usually have from 6 to 12 lessons to help provide a foundation of operational and safety instruction.
There are also free online boating safety courses available and designed specifically for your state.
- Don’t Float Without a Plan
If you think float plans are only for people with big expensive boats, think again! In an emergency situation there can be too many details to have to remember. Before hitting the water for the day, make sure you share detailed information with a reliable person about where you plan to go and when you’ll be back. It’s also a good idea to share a photo of your boat with the person you leave with your float plan.