As the weather becomes warmer, individuals are planning their summer outdoor activities; for some that includes recreational boating. In the U.S., over 87 million Americans participate in some type of recreational boating, i.e. powerboats, sailboats or man-powered vessels such as rowing and paddle boats. According to the U.S. Coast Guard, in 2017, there were 4,291 accidents that involved 658 deaths, 2,629 injuries and approximately $46 million dollars of damage to property as a result of recreational boating accidents.
Compared to the previous year, the number of recreational boating accidents, deaths and injuries have fallen. Where the cause of death was known, 76% of fatal boating accident victims drowned. Of those drowning victims, 84.5% were not wearing a life jacket. In regards to instruction, reports indicate 81% of deaths that occurred on boats the operator had not received boating safety instruction while 14% of deaths that occurred on vessels the operator had received nationally-approved boating safety education. One major concern in recreational boating is alcohol use. It is the leading contributing factor, where the primary cause was known, resulting in 19% of deaths. "No matter the type of boat or boating activity you choose," states, Prince William County Fire & Rescue System Acting Chief Tim Keen, "take the necessary precautions to reduce risks and stay safe."
National Safe Boating Week is May 18th – 24th. This annual campaign, "Wear It!" promotes safe and responsible boating to include consistent wearing of a life jacket year round. "Wear It!" is a reminder, when on the water, unexpected situations can occur and escalate; wearing a life jacket will not only give you peace of mind in controlling an emergency situation but it can also save your life. Acting System Chief Tim Keen advises parents/caregivers, "When participating in recreational boating, protect yourself and your loved ones by wearing a lifejacket; be consistent, be a role model for others, especially young children, and 'Wear It!'."
Boating Safety Tips
- Wear a life jacket.
- Make sure your life jacket is U.S. Coast Guard approved, appropriate for your water activity and fits properly. Life jackets save lives.
- Know state boating laws.
- Rules and laws can differ from state to state and violations can result in ticketing, fines or jail time.
- Take a boating safety course.
- Learn valuable tips that can help save your life in unexpected situations by taking a NASBLA (National Association of Boating Law Administrators) approved boating safety course.
- Make sure your boat is prepared.
- There are many items that need to be checked and rechecked on any boat. Schedule a Vessel Safety Check with your local U.S. Coast Guard or U.S. Power Squadrons before you hit the water.
- Be sure to know your boat's capacity.
- If you have too much on your boat, the boat may become unstable and capsize.
- Check the weather, including the water temperature. (www.weather.gov)
- Dress properly.
- Always dress for the weather, wearing layers if cooler weather, and bring an extra set of clothes in case you get wet.
- Always file a float plan
- Leave a detailed float plan with a friend or family member who is staying back. The sooner a craft can be reported overdue, the more likely a positive outcome will result.
- Don't drink while you boat. Avoid alcohol consumption while you boat.
- Beware of carbon monoxide poisoning.
- Gasoline powered engines on boats, including onboard generators, produce carbon monoxide (CO). Be sure to install and maintain a working CO detector.
- Keep in touch.
- Communication devices can be the most important piece of emergency equipment on board a vessel, especially in an emergency. Be sure to have at least two communication devices that work when wet, such as satellite phones, emergency positon indication radio beacons (EPIRB), VHF radios and personal locator beacons (PLB). Cell phones are not reliable in an emergency situation.
For more information on safe boating tips, visit the North American Safe Boating Campaign www.safeboatingcampaign.com, the National Safe Boating Council www.safeboatingcouncil.org, the U.S. Coast Guard Boating Safety Division www.uscgboating.org, and Statista www.statista.com/topics/1138/recreational-boating/.