Boating & Recreational Water Craft Safety
Best Practices for Safe Boating Excursions
The National Safe Boating Council shows that in 2010, there were 672 boating fatalities. Almost 75% of all fatal boating accident victims downed, of which 88% were not wearing life jackets. Alcohol use is a predominate factor in 19% of the deaths that stemmed from fatal boating accidents.
The top contributing factors for boating accidents and recreational boating fatalities include operator inattention, improper lookout, operator inexperience, excessive speed, alcohol use, force of wave/wake, hazardous waters, machinery failure, rules of the road, and weather.
Boating accident do happen, but with knowledge, experience, and preparation, you can reduce the effects of a boating accident. Here are some boating safety best practices:
- Wear a Life Jacket – The boat captain(s) and all passengers should wear U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) approved life jackets/life preservers/flotation devices. The USCG states that 80% of boating fatality victims could have been saved had they worn a life jacket.
- Take a Boating Safety Course – Operator errors account for 70% of boating accidents. Boating safety courses are offered throughout the country and online. For courses offered by the U.S. Coast Guard Auxillary, the U.S. Power Squadron, and other qualified sources, click here.
- Know Your Boat – Know how to manage your boat. Be thoroughly familiar with navigation, boat safety, boat handling, boat equipment line handling, anchoring, engine trouble shooting, and emergency response procedures.
- Get a Free Vessel Safety Check (VSC) – The U.S. Coast Guard will complete a courtesy examination of your vessel (boat) to verify the presence and condition of certain safety equipment required by state and federal regulation. Click here to access the Vessel Safety Check Examiner Database.
- Know the Navigation Rules – Learn the boating rules of the waterway and how to avoid collisions by using nautical charts and by using navigation aids like buoys. Click here to learn more.
- Operate your Boat at a Safe Speed – The U.S. Coast Guard Rules state that every vessel (boat) shall at all times proceed at a safe speed to that they can take proper and effective action to avoid collisions and be stopped within a distance appropriate to the prevailing circumstances and conditions. Click here for more details.
- File a Float Plan – You should always prepare a float plan. Plans include boat information, passenger information, and full trip itinerary. For a sample Float Plan, click here.
- No Boating Under the Influence - Do not drink and boat. It is illegal to operate a boat while under the influence of alcohol or drugs in every state.
- Carry a VHF Marine Radio – Boaters should have an operational marine VHF radio on their boat in order to contact the Coast Guard on channel 16 in the event an emergency.
- Check Weather Conditions – Boat captains should check current and forecasted weather conditions prior to getting underway and remain aware of changing conditions once on the water. The National Weather Service broadcasts weather conditions throughout the day on VHF channel WX2. The Coast Guard broadcasts weather conditions on VHF channel 22A at 9:30 a.m., noon, and 4:30 p.m.
- Don’t Overload your Boat – Know the passenger capacity and cargo capacity of your boat to avoid being swamped or capsizing. See your owner’s manual.
- Carbon Monoxide Poisoning – Educate yourself about the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning. To learn about carbon monoxide symptoms, poisoning, and treatment, click here.
- Check your Boating Safety State and Local Requirements – Make sure you know the local boating laws and regulations prior to boating. Click here for the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators for local laws and requirements.
If you or a loved one has been injured or died due to a boating accident or a personal watercraft accident and would like to learn more about your legal rights, please contact Baker, Zimmerman, & Perez online or call (954) 509-1900 or toll free at (800) 886-LAWS.