Warm temperatures are just around the corner, which means it’s the start of boating season. With a 35% increase in boat ownership and 415, 000 new boaters, the waterways will likely be busier than ever this summer, according to the Water Sports Foundation.
That means, practicing safe boating will also be more important. In recent years, as recreational boating has become increasingly popular the number of boating accidents has been on the rise. In 2020, there were 767 boating fatalities in the United States, an increase of more than 25 percent from 2019, according to the U.S. Coast Guard. Total accidents increased 26 percent, and the number of nonfatal injured victims increased 25 percent.
According to the National Safe Boating Council, 75% of boating fatalities are from drowning. Approximately 86% of those victims were not wearing a life jacket and 2/3 of those were strong swimmers.
Safe Boating Week was a campaign started by NSBC to encourage responsible boating. Through proper operation on the vessel, use of equipment, common sense and awareness, lives can be saved this summer.
The National Safe Boating Council recommends the following tips for boaters before even leaving the dock:
1. Take a boating safety course. Gain valuable knowledge and on-water experience in a boating safety course with many options for novice to experienced boaters.
During boating week, local USCG Auxiliaries will be hosting safe boating classes such as Suddenly in Command, Boat America – course, Paddlers Guide to Safety and Kids Don’t Float. To find a USCG Auxiliary Course in your area, go to: http://cgaux.org/boatinged/class_finder/
2. Check equipment. Schedule a free vessel safety check with local U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary or U.S. Power Squadrons to make sure all essential equipment is present, working and in good condition.
Many Auxiliary Flotillas offer Vessel Examinations for Boaters. To make sure that their vessel meets the requirements of a safe boat according to the United States Coast Guard regulations. All mariners who pass the inspection are given a Vessel Safety Decal for their boat to indicate that they meet the requirements To find a Vessel Safety Examiner in your area, go to: http://cgaux.org/vsc/
3. Make a float plan. Always let someone on shore know the trip itinerary, including operator and passenger information, boat type and registration, and communication equipment on board.
A float plan can include the following information: name, address, and phone number of trip leader, names and phone numbers of all passengers, boat type and registration information, trip itinerary, types of communication and signal equipment onboard, such as an Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB) or Personal Locator Beacon (PLB).
4. Make Proper Use of Lifejackets. It’s easy to become complacent about life jacket use, once you are accustomed to the water. But don’t become a statistic. Assign and fit each member of your onboard team with a life jacket before departure and require all passengers to wear it.
5. Be Weather-Wise — Always check local weather conditions before departure.TV and radio forecasts can be a good source of information. If you notice darkening clouds, volatile and rough changing winds or sudden drops in temperature, play it safe by getting off the water.
6. Use an engine cut-off device – it’s the law. An engine cut-off device, or engine cut-off switch, is a proven safety device to stop the boat’s engine should the operator unexpectedly fall overboard.
7. Know what’s going on around you at all times. Nearly a quarter of all reported boating accidents in 2020 were caused by operator inattention or improper lookout.
8. Know where you’re going and travel at safe speeds. Be familiar with the area, local boating speed zones and always travel at a safe speed.
9. Never boat under the influence. A BUI is involved in one-third of all recreational boating fatalities. Always designate a sober skipper.
10. Keep in touch. Have more than one communication device that works when wet. VHF radios, emergency locator beacons, satellite phones, and cell phones can all be important devices in an emergency.