The weather is warming up which means boating season is about to kick off for the summer! With more boats and boaters hitting the water, it’s important to remember proper safe boating practices and to review the boating laws in your state. Do your part to stay safe and avoid accidents by taking action to refresh your safety knowledge this year.
Every year, the United States Coast Guard compiles a report on recreational boating accident statistics. Due in part to increased boating activity from both new and seasoned boaters during the pandemic, we’ve seen a rise in the number of accidents on registered recreational vessels, making boating safety guidelines all the more crucial this year. Over the last decade, the Coast Guard cites operator inattention, operator inexperience, and improper lookout as the top three causes of boating accidents.
With proper planning and knowledge, these leading accident-causing oversights can be avoided. Here are five ways to participate in National Boating Week that will ensure everyone has a fun and safe time out on the water this season.
1. Make sure you’re familiar with the most-recent state and local boating laws
Check the expiration date to be sure you have a valid boaters license in your state—In some states, such as Michigan, there are additional regulations based on the operator’s age, and the driver may need to complete a boating education course or acquire a safety certificate.
Your state’s Department of Natural Resources site is a great tool to find information on the requirements and accessibility for the body of water you’re planning to embark on.
2. Register for a boating safety course
Even if you fall outside of the age to complete a mandatory boating safety program, it’s still a great way for new and seasoned boaters to stay alert and up-to-date while out on the water. Explore these courses recommended by the U.S. Coast Guard to get started.
Here are a few important safety tips to keep in mind:
- Be vigilant of other boats—especially if they are towing passengers on tubes or skis.
- When moving at high speeds, make sure your passengers are seated, children are wearing a properly fitting life jacket, and don’t let anyone hang over the side of the boat.
- Always have a lookout for the driver to watch for tubers or skiers that have fallen off in the water and hazards such as tree branches or rocks in shallower water.
- Always bring enough life jackets on board for all passengers (children under the minimum state age must wear a life jacket at all times).
3. Take the Wear It Pledge
Boating safety advocates recommend that all boaters and their passengers not only have a life jacket on board, but wear it at all times while on the water, even if you are an excellent swimmer. Data shows that life jackets save lives—sadly, 86% of reported drownings occur when the person isn’t wearing a life jacket.
4. Take part in a boating safety event
From virtual to in person—there’s a variety of events around boating safety at the local, national, and global level. These events are a great way to spread awareness and recommit to boating safely each year.
Here are a couple nationwide events that anyone can take part in:
- May 20, 2022: Wear Your Life Jacket to Work Day – this event, hosted by the National Safe Boating Council, is a fun and inclusive activity that anyone around the world can participate in. Simply wear your life jacket to wherever your workspace may be (in the office, at home, to school), snap a picture, and share on social media with #wearyourlifejacketatworkday #safeboating
- Ready, Set, Wear It – this family-friendly event teaches boaters the importance of wearing a life jacket, along with helpful boat care and maintenance information. The dates vary by location throughout the summer, but you can find your local partners here
For more boating safety events throughout the season, find a local Safe Boating Campaign Partner here.
5. Boat sober, boat responsibly
Just like a car, drinking and driving a boat can be very dangerous. Make sure to always designate a sober licensed driver when cruising around the lake. Likewise, make sure you are always following any posted speed limits or no wake zones.
Small lakes and excessive speed don’t mix well and it’s important to understand the handling ability of your vessel and give other boaters—especially non-motorized vessels—-plenty of distance. See your state’s regulations for the minimum distance a motorized vessel is required to give a non-motorized vessel when out on the water.
If you’re spending a day on the water, you’re there for a relaxing time making memories and enjoying all the fun activities recreational boating has to offer. Make sure you are being safe for yourself and the other lake-goers around you, and remember that the best boating is responsible boating.
All of us at ITC Manufacturers’ Select want to wish everyone another safe and fun boating season!