Best Practices for Safe Boating Fun

Boating is one of the many joys of the summer season. There's nothing like a day out on the water with your family and friends, soaking in the sunshine and relaxing on the waves. With all these pleasures, however, come certain dangers. Boating accidents can easily cause injuries, if you're not careful. Guarantee you end your summer on a fun -- and safe -- note by following these important boating tips:

Practice Boat Propeller Safety

Your boat wouldn't be able to function without its propellers, but their usefulness doesn't make them any safer for those in or around the boat. The propellers are powered by your boat's hefty mechanics and can cause serious damage to anything they encounter. Before starting the engine of your boat, be sure your passengers are on board and in a safe, seated position. You should also walk around your boat before boarding to check for others in the water near the boat.

Even when children are on the boat, it's vital to watch them closely to ensure they don't sit in areas that would allow them to fall off the boat near the propellers. Keep in mind all passengers should know where the propellers are located on the boat and the dangers associated with them. When your boat's engine is on or idling, don't allow anyone on or off your boat and remember to turn it off when you approach anyone in the water. If your type of boat allows for it, use a propeller guard as an additional safety measure.

Don't Drink and Boat

While many people would never think about drinking alcohol while driving a car, they often don't see the dangers in cracking open a beer while they're operating a boat. Some people even view this combination as a summer pleasure. However, drinking and boating is just as dangerous as drinking and driving.

Did you know that drinking and boating accounts for one-third of all recreational boating fatalities? When you operate a boat under the influence of alcohol, known as a BUI, you're committing a federal crime that is illegal in all 50 states. Majority of the states have set the legal limit for blood alcohol level at .08%, which is the same legal limit as driving a car.

On the water, the effects of alcohol tend to take hold much faster than on land. Stressors of the marine environment, such as the sun, wind, waves, vibration and sea spray can all increase your impairment while operating a boat. When alcohol is combined, reacting to these sudden changes is even harder. Other factors like dehydration and drinking on an empty stomach can also lead to becoming drunk more quickly. If you're responsible for operating a boat, it is best that you refrain from drinking to avoid the need for medical help.

Always Wear a Life Jacket

According to U.S. Coast Guard regulations, all boats need to have USCG-approved life jackets that are accessible, in serviceable conditions and in the appropriate sizes for each person on the boat. While these life jackets are required on all boats, not all states require passengers to wear them. Children, however, are required to wear life jackets in all 50 states when aboard a boat, and the jackets need to be the correct size for their age and weight range. Despite the law not requiring all passengers on a boat to wear life jackets, they're essential in keeping everyone safe should a sudden boating accident occur.

Keep an Eye on the Skies

Bad weather can cause trouble for even the most experienced boaters. A sunny day can rapidly become overcast and windy on the water. When you're operating a boat, the last thing you want is to fight strong winds or violent waves. Being out in the water in inclement weather poses a danger to everyone onboard.

Before you leave the safety of the dock, check the local weather forecast for the whole day. If you're boating to get to a different location, you should check the weather forecast for your destination as well. You should also bring a radio with you so that you can get the attention of local authorities and ask for medical help in case the weather takes a turn for the worse. If you notice the skies becoming dark or experience sudden wind shifts, choppy water or lightning, get off the water as quickly as possible.

Know What to Do If a Passenger Goes Overboard

Despite the precautions you take and the safety measures you practice, someone on your boat may still go overboard. If this emergency happens, you need to know what to do. The first step is to turn off the boat's motor and propellers. The propellers pose a threat to anyone in the water, even when you're trying to use them to get the boat close to the person who needs rescuing.

The next step is to throw the person a life jacket. If the person in the water is wearing a life jacket, they can float without using too much energy. Note that the person in the water should refrain from taking off their clothes, as the air bubbles trapped in clothing can provide additional flotation. Encourage the overboard passenger to float on their back, if possible, and paddle slowly to the shore or boat. Before each trip out onto the water, it's essential that you go over these points with each passenger, so everyone is on the same page.

Boating is meant to be a wonderful summer activity that allows friends and family to create new memories on the water. By following these tips and the basic rules of your boat, you will be doing all that you can to keep everyone safe. End the summer with safe boating practices to enjoy those last golden rays of the season.

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