Boating on a lake

How to Become a Boat Safety A-fish-ionado

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There are few greater feelings than the wind blowing your hair, the sun kissing your skin and the spray of the water raining down as you listen to the engine propel you along the lake or ocean. In this moment, you’re carefree. But before you leave the dock in search of this feeling, be sure to take precautions.

According to the United States Coast Guard (USCG), there were 2,613 injuries and 626 deaths reported as a result of recreational boating accidents in 2015. Here are some tips to help prevent you from becoming a statistic.

Follow the Law… Oar Else

Laws vary from state to state, so educate yourself on your state’s requirements before taking your boat for a spin.

Across the board, laws require that boats have USCG-approved life vests for all passengers. Your boat must also be registered, and anyone driving must carry a boating license. Operator inexperience led to 458 accidents, 288 injuries and 37 deaths in 2015, per the USCG.

Operating a vessel under the influence of alcohol is against the law, so make sure to establish a designated driver before setting sail for a day on the water.

Use Good Judgment Before Shipping Off

When you’re on the water, use common sense.

Make sure your boat is operating properly before leaving the dock. According to the USCG, equipment failure, hull failure and machinery failure resulted in 425 reported accidents, 152 injuries and 31 deaths in 2015.

Don’t take the boat out in poor weather conditions; you may be putting yourself at risk for more than just an unpleasant time. The USCG notes that a storm can cause limited visibility, making you more vulnerable to accidents.

And less-than-ideal weather conditions mean more than just storms. Intense heat can cause you or any passengers to suffer from dehydration, heat exhaustion, heat stroke or intense sunburns. Be sure to stock the boat with plenty of sunscreen and water, and always check the forecast before departing. Weather and hazardous waters led to 175 injuries and 120 deaths last year, according to the USCG.

Maintain a safe speed, especially in crowded waters. The USCG reported that excessive speeds accounted for 289 injuries and 18 deaths in 2015. Safe speeds allow drivers more time to adjust the boat’s path when other vessels appear, thus limiting the chances of a crash.

Stay alert and appoint a co-captain. It’s simple: If you’re not paying attention, you could hit a swimmer, a smaller watercraft, such as a jet ski, or another boat. Appointing a co-captain adds another set of eyes watching the water, helping you properly operate the boat, and ensures that if you’re injured or incapacitated, there’s another person on board who can get you and your guests home safely. Operator inattention yielded the highest number of accidents (551) and injuries (353) of the 30 categories listed in the USCG’s 2015 report.

Avoid buoys and larger watercrafts that can’t stop or turn quickly. Buoys and other navigational aids are in place to help you cruise the waters safely, so allow plenty of space when passing them. And smaller boats are easier to navigate than larger vessels, such as yachts, so be respectful as you near bigger boats.

Lastly, make sure you have enough gas to last the duration of your trip. The last thing you want is to be stuck miles from the shore or dock and have to call for a tow.

Don’t Let the Ship Sail on Safety

Summer is all about fun on the water. Use common sense and know your state’s laws to help ensure safe trips for you and your passengers so you can all achieve that blissful, carefree feeling on the water.