Boat Safety Best Practices

Boat safety is one aspect of boating you can’t afford to forget.

In 2012, 651 people lost their lives in boating accidents, according to the United States Coast Guard. Another 3,000 were injured in 4,515 total boating accidents for that year. As concerning as these numbers are, they shouldn’t prevent you from enjoying the water. Just remember to follow some important boat safety precautions before you head out.

Follow these boat safety tips to make your next trip out on the water as enjoyable as it is safe.

  • Have your boat inspected. The Vessel Safety Check is a free public service offered by the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary and U.S. Power Squadron volunteers. Experts will ensure that your boat meets minimum safety standards and that you have the necessary equipment to save lives and summon help in an emergency.
  • Make sure plenty of life jackets are on board. The most important piece of boat safety equipment is the piece you wear on your own body – your life jacket. Ninety percent of drowning victims were not wearing a personal flotation device (PFD), according to Coast Guard studies. Legally, you do not need to wear your PFD (it only has to be in the boat) but wearing it ensures you’ll be prepared should an accident occur. (In states where no children’s life jacket law is in place, a U.S. Coast Guard interim rule requires children under 13 to wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket that fits.)
  • Remember, alcohol and boating don’t mix. Seventeen percent of all recreational boating fatalities have been linked to drinking while boating. While it is not illegal to drink in a boat, excessive drinking jeopardizes boat safety. If drinking will be part of your next boating trip, appoint a designated driver just as you would with a car.
  • Pay attention to the weather. No one would think of taking a boat out in a thunderstorm. Yet boat owners often don’t think twice about other weather conditions that could prove just as dangerous. Avoid boating on exceptionally windy days since waves could capsize a smaller boat or cause passengers to fall out.
  • Keep your boating skills sharp. More than 70 percent of boating accidents each year are linked to operator error. You can improve your boating knowledge by enrolling in educational courses to keep everything fresh in your mind.

The final practical issue you’ll want to consider is boat insurance.

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