Boat Safety Training Can Help You Avoid Becoming a Statistic
Memorial Day is coming up, and a lot of people will be taking their boats out for the first time all summer. According to a report from the U.S. Coast Guard:
- In 2015, there were 4,158 boating accidents that involved 626 deaths, 2,613 injuries and approximately $42 million of property damage.
- 76% of all fatal boating accident victims drowned, and of those, almost 84% were not wearing a life jacket.
- Operator inattention, operator inexperience, improper lookout, machinery failure and excessive speed rank as the top five primary contributing factors in accidents.
- Alcohol use is the leading contributing factor in fatal boating accidents; it was listed as the leading factor in 17% of deaths.
Given this information, it's smart to know and abide by the rules of safe boating before you head out on the open water.
The Right Stuff
Before the boat leaves the dock, make sure it is equipped with these items in case of emergency:
- Enough life jackets or personal floatation devices for everyone on board
- Fire extinguisher
- Visual distress signals
- Bell or whistle
- Bucket or pump
- VHF radio or a way to communicate with the marina
- Tool kit
- First aid kit
- Extra fuel
- Extra water
When you buy your boat, find out what your state's boating safety and licensing requirements are as they can vary from state to state. Every state offers boat safety courses, many of which are free and can be taken online for your convenience. It's a good investment of your time, and may even earn you a discount on your boat insurance.
Check the Weather
Nothing can ruin a day on the water like an unexpected storm. When you plan your outing, make sure you check the weather forecast first to see if storms are predicted. You don't want to find yourself scrambling to get back to shore to avoid rough waters or lightning strikes.
If you forgot to check the weather and see clouds forming or hear thunder in the distance, head for the nearest place to dock your boat and take shelter. If your boat has a cabin, tell passengers to move to the cabin for their own safety.
Rules of the Water
Boat supply stores have a copy of the boating "Rules of the Road." Be sure to pick one up, read it and know the rules before you leave the marina. Here are some very basic safety rules to follow:
- Have at least one other passenger on board who knows how to operate your boat
- Always be on the lookout for other boats, people or debris in all directions, even behind you
- Boat at a safe speed
- Avoid reckless maneuvers
- Don't drink alcohol while operating your boat
Although these are suggestions to avoid causing a boating accident, it’s not an all-inclusive list or a substitute for boat safety training. In many boating situations, a little common sense will take you a long way.