Boating season is about to kick off in the northern states as the weather warms up and is well underway in the southern states. Boats are getting back in the water and as the activity on the lakes ramp up, it’s important to remember the proper safe boating practices to make sure everyone has a good and safe time. More people on the the lake means that there is even more of a necessity to be safe and do what you can to avoid accidents.
The U.S. Coast Guard compiles a yearly report (See Most Recent Full Report Here) of boating stats including accidents and the causes of those accidents. For the last decade the Top 3 reasons for boating accidents have been Operator Inattention, Operator Inexperience, and Improper Lookout. The Coast Guard defines these as:
- Operator Inattention: Failure on the part of the operator to pay attention to the vessel, its occupants, or the environment in which the vessel is operating.
- Operator Inexperience: Lack of practical experience or knowledge in operating vessel, or more particularly, the vessel involved in the accident.
- Improper Lookout: No proper watch; the failure of the operator to perceive danger because no one was serving as lookout, or the person so serving failed in that regard. Every vessel shall at all times maintain a proper look-out by sight and hearing as well as by all available means appropriate in the prevailing circumstances and conditions so as to make a full appraisal of the situation and of the risk of collision
All of these causes are easily avoidable with proper planning and knowledge. Make sure you have a valid boaters license in your state and understand the rules on the lakes that you will be boating on. Check your state’s Department of Natural Resources site for any information they have on the body of water you are about to embark on. After you are out on the water be vigilant of other boats especially if they are towing passengers on tubes or skis. It is also important to keep an eye on your own passengers. When going at higher speeds make sure everyone is seated, don’t allow passengers to hang over the side of the boat when the boat is moving, and always be sure children are wearing a properly fitting life jacket.
Don’t let kids or unlicensed drivers take the boat out on the water until they have passed a boaters safety course and the owner of the boat and/or the child’s parent are onboard to supervise. A boat will handle differently than a car and not having the education and experience of operating one can lead to serious accidents.
Always have a lookout/spotter for the driver looking ahead for tubers or skiers that have fallen off in the water and are waiting for their boat to pick them up. They should also look for hazards in the water such as tree branches that have floated out into the water or rocks if the vessel is going into shallower water.
Avoiding peak lake times can also negate the risk of an accident by not adding to congested boat traffic during the peak time. Take the necessary precautions and always have life jackets on board (children under the minimum age set by the state must wear a life jacket at all times onboard).
Other causes that are often in the Top 5 are Alcohol Use and Excessive speed. Just a like a car, drinking and driving a boat can be very dangerous. Make sure to always have 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 states 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 at the lake, you’re there for a relaxing day enjoying all the fun activities it has to offer. Make sure you are being safe for yourself and the other lake-goers around you.
All of us at ITC want to wish everyone another safe and fun boating season!