Recreational boating is a great way to get out on the water with your friends and family, but it’s important to make good choices and take precautions to avoid turning your day in the sun into a day at the hospital.
Boating accidents can lead to significant physical and emotional injuries. According to the U.S. Coast Guard, 5,265 boating accidents occurred in 2020, resulting in over 3,000 injuries and 767 deaths. The numbers were higher last year due to the pandemic and will potentially increase this year as well, with everyone itching to get outside and see their friends and loved ones. For this reason, it’s more important now than ever to use good judgment and take extra care to keep safe while cruising the water this summer.
Top 5 Boating Tips to Keep You Safe
The tips below are something everyone should keep in mind when boating. Just as there are rules of the road to follow when driving, there are also rules and regulations that must be followed when boating as well. It’s also important to stay alert and make smart choices to ensure a safe and enjoyable summer on the water.
1. Wear a Life Jacket
Always wear a life jacket. Of the number of accidents listed above, 75% of those were due to drowning, with 86% of the victims being found without a life jacket. Even if you are a seasoned swimmer and boater, you never know what could happen when out on the water. Just to be safe, it’s a good idea to keep extra life jackets on board in case you or anyone else forgets to bring one along.
2. Be Prepared
Before heading out on a boating trip or even for a simple day of boating, you should take the following steps and precautions to ensure you and everyone on board will be happy, comfortable, and safe:
- Boat maintenance: Check that your boat and all of your equipment are ready to go. If anything seems off or is not working properly, have it checked and fixed before going out on the water.
- Know your destination: While it’s nice to just head out without following any sort of plan or schedule, it’s an easy way to find yourself in an unknown situation. You should at least have an idea of where you’re headed and what the rules and regulations are for that area.
- Check the weather: Summer storms can move in fast. Make sure to check the weather report before heading out, and even if it looks clear, have a backup plan just in case.
- Follow proper procedures: Whether you are an experienced boater or an amateur, it's a good idea to review state boating laws or even take a boating safety course to ensure you know what you are doing. It’s easy to get comfortable when it comes to boating safety when you’ve been doing it for years, but keeping yourself up to date with the latest rules and procedures will ensure you and everyone on board stays safe and has a good time.
- Water sport safety: Tubing, water-skiing, and wakeboarding are common water activities but come with their own risks. If you are planning on trying any of them out, make sure you use safe hand signaling and follow the rules of the area you are boating in. Simply tying a string with a tube at the end of it to the back of your boat is likely to lead to an injury if you don’t know what you’re doing. Read up and do some studying first to keep everyone involved safe.
3. Don’t Drink and Boat
It’s fairly common for boaters to take alcohol out on their boats with them, especially when entertaining friends and family. Unfortunately, alcohol use is one of the leading causes of fatal boating accidents. If you can avoid alcohol on the boat altogether — that’s best– —if not, you should at least have a designated person or two who can operate the boat and keep an eye on everyone else for safety.
4. Be Mindful of Capacity
Overloading your boat with too much stuff and too many people can easily lead to accidents. Going over the maximum load is known to cause handling difficulties and a weight imbalance. If you have a lot of people that want to join you, schedule to take them out on separate trips instead of trying to fit them all on at the same time.
5. Exercise Common Sense
Just like driving, in addition to the state laws and regulations, it’s important to use common sense and good judgment. Stay alert and keep an eye on other boats in the area, as well as any potential swimmers in the water or water sport activities that are occurring around you. Maintain a safe speed and ensure that everyone on the boat is seated in a safe spot while the vessel is moving.
What to Do if You’ve Been in a Boating Accident
With the expansive beaches and lakes available to Florida residents and tourists, boating accidents are quite common. In this area especially, it’s important to use good judgment and follow state laws to keep everyone safe. If you find yourself the victim of a boating accident, it’s important to work with an experienced attorney to get the compensation that you deserve.
If you or a loved one has been injured from a boating accident, contact Steven A. Bagen & Associates today for a free case evaluation!