'Top 10' Recreational Boating Safety Tips

RECREATIONAL boating activity soars during warm-weather months, and so do boating incidents and injuries. According to the U.S. Coast Guard's "Boating Statistics 2005," there are almost 13 million registered recreational boats in the United States. Overall boating fatalities continue to occur, with 697 recreational boating fatalities reported in 2005. Close to 5,000 boating accidents were reported, and more than 3,400 people required medical treatment beyond first aid. Property damage exceeded $38 million.

Though the statistics are sobering, the risk of boating injuries and accidents can be minimized. According to the U.S. Coast Guard, the majority of reported incidents involved operator controllable factors and can be prevented.

"There's no mystery to boating safety and its potential impact on saving lives. Understanding and obeying navigational rules and safety procedures has proven to help reduce injuries and property damage," said Peter Lafontaine, vice president, business development, INAMAR Recreational Marine Insurance.

INAMAR's Top Ten Recreational Boating Safety Tips

  1. Always wear a life jacket and insist that your crew and guests do the same. Approximately 70 percent of all fatal boating accident victims drowned in 2005. Ninety percent of those who drowned were not wearing their personal flotation device (PFD) or life jacket. Always have an adequate supply of PFDs aboard. Make sure that children are wearing life jackets that fit correctly. Drowning was the reported cause of death for approximately 60 percent of the children who perished in 2005. Overall, fatal accident data indicate approximately 491 lives could have been saved if boaters had worn their lifejackets.
  2. Never drink alcohol while boating. In 2005, alcohol was either a direct or indirect contributing factor in 25 percent of all boating fatalities. Stay sharp on the water by leaving the alcohol on dry land.
  3. Take a boating safety course. More than 70 percent of all reported boating fatalities in 2005 occurred on boats where the operator had not completed a boating safety course. You may even qualify for a reduced insurance rate if you complete a safety course. Contact your Coast Guard Auxiliary or visit http://www.boater101.com for information on courses in your area.
  4. Stay in control by taking charge of your safety and that of your passengers. Adults between the ages of 40 and 49 accounted for the highest rate of the total boating fatalities in 2005. Don't forget that safety begins with you.
  5. Understand and obey boating safety recommendations and navigational rules. Imagine the mayhem that would result if car drivers disregarded highway traffic laws. Know and understand boating safety procedures and rules of navigation before taking to the water and practice them without fail.
  6. Operate at a safe speed and always maintain a careful lookout. Overall, operator inattention, carelessness/reckless operation, operator inexperience and excess speed are leading contributing factors of all reported accidents. Know your boat's limitations. Take note of visibility, traffic density and the proximity of navigation hazards like shoals, rocks or floating objects. Don't invite a collision by going faster than is prudent.
  7. Check the weather forecast. A calm day can quickly turn ugly on the water. Stay on top of the forecast while boating and heed all weather and storm advisories. Check the condition of your life raft annually and before long distance off-shore cruising. Carry flares at all times.
  8. Have your vessel checked for safety. The U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary offers Vessel Safety Checks at no cost. Coast Guard staffers will check your boat's equipment and provide information about its use, safety procedures and applicable regulations. Unsafe boats are a threat to all recreational boaters. Make sure your vessel is as safe as possible. Visit the U.S. Coast Guard web site at http://www.uscg.mil for further information.
  9. Use a carbon monoxide detector. All internal combustion engines emit carbon monoxide, an odorless, colorless, poisonous gas that can kill in minutes. Carbon monoxide poisoning caused six boating deaths in 2005.
  10. File a float plan. The U.S. Coast Guard recommends that you always tell a friend or family member where you plan to go and when you'll be back. Make it a habit before leaving on any boat trip. The proper officials can be notified promptly if you don't return when expected.

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