We may not have hit the first day of summer yet, but the hot weather has arrived in Florida – which means more people boating and unfortunately, more boating accidents.
The U.S. Coast Guard reports that in 2006 there were 710 deaths and 3,451 injuries in boating-related accidents in this country. Seventy percent of these of the deaths happened on boats where the operator had no formal safe boating instruction. Could their deaths have been prevented if the driver had taken a course? Perhaps. I find it ironic that you must pass a driver’s test to operate a motor vehicle which you’re going to drive on roads and highways with all kinds of traffic control devices such as traffic signals, speed limit signs, dotted lines for passing etc. Yet you don’t need a license to drive a boat as fast as you want, in whatever depth of water the craft will go, in whatever direction you want, with no taffic control measures at all. So to be safe on the water this year, take a boating course at your local US Power Squadron or the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary.
You may think that your safe in your boat because it’s just a small one, but the stastistics will prove you wrong. Eighty percent of the people who died in boating accidents were in boats 20 feet or shorter.
Just like alcohol and driving doesn’t mix, neither does boating and alcohol. Twenty percent of the boating fatalities had alcohol as a major contributing factor.
The most significant statistic that can be most easily remedied is with the two thirds of the boating deaths that were the result of drowning. It may sound logical that they died from drowning, since they were on the water, but 90 percent of those who drowned were not wearing a life jacket. It’s sort of like seatbelts. They’re there for a reason which is to save lives, but they only work if you use them. Before you put your boat in the water this year, invest in U.S. Coast Guard certified life jackets and make sure everyone wears one. The newer jackets are not nearly as bulky as the old orange ones, and they may just save your life or the life of your family.
Another recommendation from the American Red Cross that pertains to all water activities is that everyone should learn to swim. It may mean the difference between life and death in the event of a boating accident.
So in short, before you take the boat out again remember the following:
No alcohol on the boat, life jackets for everyone, take a safe boating course and learn to swim. It could just save your life!