Boating can be a fun activity with family and friends, but it can also be dangerous if you don’t take safety measures. Boaters should know what they’re doing on the water and how their actions impact those around them. According to the US Coast Guard, there were 658 boating fatalities nationwide in 2021. While that’s a decrease from 2020, it’s still 658 lives lost and mourned by family and friends. Continue reading to learn how to minimize the risk of drowning while boating.
1. Safety First. Always!
Every person aboard a boat should be thoroughly briefed on the importance of being alert and following the rules while boating. In addition, safety rules and measures should be explained to guests before setting off on an outing.
2. Don’t Drink Alcohol While Boating
Alcohol continued to be the leading factor in fatal boating accidents in 2021, accounting for over 100 deaths, or 16% of total fatalities. Just as you should not drink and operate a motor vehicle on the road, the same is true when you’re behind the wheel of a boat. Alcohol impairs a person’s judgment and can reduce the ability to react quickly in emergencies.
The rule doesn’t only apply to the captain of the boat, though. Passengers must also be alert and not impaired by alcohol in an emergency. Everyone should remain sober while boating to ensure that everyone stays safe while on the water.
3. Wear a Life Vest
Wearing a life vest on a boat is mandatory regardless of your swimming ability. Where the cause of death was known in the 2021 boating accidents, 81% of fatal boating accident victims drowned. Of those drowning victims with reported life jacket usage, 83% were not wearing a life jacket.
Life vests must be United States Coast Guard (USCG) approved. Look for the USCG stamp inside the lifejacket, alongside sizing and other valuable information.
On calm days, wearing a life jacket might seem like overkill. But it’s hard to predict the weather, and if the wind suddenly picks up and the waves get rough, even the most skilled boater can be surprised and quickly get into trouble. Events can happen quickly and unexpectedly, and boaters might not have time to grab their life jacket before finding themselves in the water.
Don’t remove your life vest even if you feel it’s too warm or cumbersome. Life vests save lives!
4. Bring Charged Communication Devices
Having charged communication devices onboard can make an enormous difference when unforeseen situations happen. The ability to contact the coast guard when in distress is crucial. The coast guard monitors very high-frequency radios 24 hours a day to handle emergency situations. So, before embarking on a boating excursion, make sure you have a quality communication device with a high-frequency range.
5. Avoid Risky Locations
Just as risky locations for swimming should be avoided, the same is true while boating. In many situations, visible sign boards indicate the level of danger in certain areas to prevent boaters that are new to the area from venturing into such spots. A careful boater should be able to decipher the meaning of these sign boards and steer away from these areas.
6. Take Extra Precautions With Children
Extra precautions should be taken when embarking on boating trips with children due to their curious and adventurous nature. Parents and guardians should communicate certain vital information to prevent accidents and drowning.
For instance, they should explain the importance of a life jacket and how to use it, staying in the safest part of the boat away from the edge to prevent falling, and other dangerous scenarios such as drowning.
7. Avoid Unnecessary Distractions
It takes a moment’s distraction for a boat to smash into a rock and capsize or a few seconds for children to disappear from view. More than one adult must be on a boating expedition when children are onboard.
Boating is a great way to have fun and bond with your friends and family, but it can be dangerous if safety isn’t taken seriously. Safety measures cannot be overemphasized because they are necessary to prevent drowning and other unfortunate circumstances.
Everyone Can Help Prevent Drowning
Together we can end the heartache of losing a loved one due to drowning. Take our Water Safety Challenge to measure your family’s water safety competence and help us provide water safety outreach to schools and community groups to keep everyone safe.