1. Always wear a life jacket – The U.S. Coast Guard requires that all recreational boats must carry one Coast Guard-approved life jacket for each person aboard. Life jackets should be tested once a year and must be the appropriate size for the intended user.
2. Take a boater safety course – As with driving a car, a boater safety course will help you learn the proper regulations and safety precautions on the water. Most states require operators to pass boater safety requirements and display their safety certificate at all times. Some insurance carriers may also offer a discount on boat insurance if you take a safety course.
3. Learn the rules of the waterway – Unlike our roads, waterways don’t have traffic signals. So that means boaters must depend on each other by observing safety precautions and navigational rules to prevent mishaps.
4. Preventative boat maintenance – Keeping your boat in good working order is an important part of the boating experience. Regularly inspecting your boating equipment ensures that it will perform better and save you money on costly repairs.
5. Operate at a safe speed – Excessive speeding is a leading cause of all reported boating accidents. Operate your boat at a safe speed and stay aware of traffic density and navigation hazards to avoid accidents and save lives.
6. Don’t drink and boat – According to the U.S. Coast Guard, Boating While Intoxicated (BWI) is a leading cause in fatal boating accidents. Alcohol affects judgment, vision and increases the likelihood of an accident. It’s illegal to operate a boat while under the influence of alcohol.
7. Install a carbon monoxide detector – Internal combustion engines on boats emit a harmful, odorless gas called carbon monoxide. The symptoms are similar to seasickness or alcohol intoxication. All boats with an enclosed cabin need to be equipped with a carbon monoxide detector as a precaution.
8. Hypothermia is a risk – Avoid entering the water when the temperature is below 59 degrees Fahrenheit or hypothermia may result. The symptoms include a decrease in body temperature, uncontrolled breathing and unconsciousness. As you plan your trip, pack dry clothing in a waterproof bag and never go out alone.
9. Create a float plan – The U.S. Coast Guard recommends that boaters inform a friend or family member where they plan to go, the route they will take and the time they are expected to return. This information will aid officials if an accident occurs.
10. Check the weather forecast – Always check the
weather forecast before venturing out on your boat. A nice, sunny day can quickly turn into a severe storm. Also, keep a radio on board to receive weather updates.