When people are out boating in the summer, safety can sometimes drop the back seat for pleasure. This can be a tragic mistake. In 2020, 5,265 boat accidents occurred in the United States, causing 767 deaths and 3,191 injuries, according to reports from the US Coast Guard (USCG). Enjoy the sun and the water but keep in mind the following boat safety tips.
Do not drink when you go boating
Alcohol consumption is a major contributing factor to fatal boating accidents. It was the leading factor in 18% of boat deaths in 2020. It is well known that alcohol and driving are dangerous. Consuming alcohol can be even more dangerous on the water than on land because the marine environment (wind, waves, sun, vibrations) can accelerate an operator̵7;s disability.
In addition, it is illegal in all 50 states to drive a boat under the influence of alcohol. The legal limit is 0.08% – the same for driving a boat as driving a motor vehicle on land. The Coast Guard applies a federal law banning boating under the influence (BUI).
Always wear a life jacket
Life jackets save lives. According to the Coast Guard, 75% of the victims who died in fatal boat accidents in 2020 drowned. Although some state laws only require life jackets to be available, not worn, it is much safer to wear them. You may not have time to reach for and put on a life jacket before the disaster occurs in a sudden boat accident. With the thin, flexible and 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 boat accidents in 2020 where a propeller hit at least one person. Accidents with propellers caused 39 deaths and 241 injuries. Before starting the engine, it is important to make sure that all passengers are taken into account and that no one is in the water near the boat. Watch children carefully and do not let them sit where they can fall near the propellers.
Perform a safety check of the boat
Before you go out:
- Perform a routine safety check of the boat.
- Make sure you have a full tank of gas.
- Check engine oil and transmission oil levels.
- Make sure your battery is fully charged and that electronic and other components are in good condition. The boat should be equipped 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 leaving the quay, check the local weather and the forecast for your destination. Always have a radio on board. Look out for bad weather and get out of the water as soon as possible if dark skies, wind gusts, choppy water or lightning appear.
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