1. Always wear a life jacket and insist that your crew and guests do the same. Approximately 77 percent of fatal boating accident victims drowned in 2013.(1) Almost 84 percent of those who drowned were not wearing a life jacket, and 8 out of every 10 boaters who drowned were on vessels less than 21 feet in length. Always have an adequate supply of life jackets aboard. Make sure that children are wearing appropriate life jackets that fit correctly. Drowning was the reported cause of death for approximately 36 percent of the children under the age of 13 who perished in boating accidents in 2013. In cold water areas, life jackets are even more important. Hypothermia is a significant risk factor for injury or even death while boating. Cold water accelerates the onset and progression of hypothermia since body heat can be lost 25 times faster in cold water than in cold air. Boaters can be at risk of hypothermia in warm waters as well, where expected time of survival can be as little as two hours in waters as warm at 60 – 70°F. To learn hypothermia risk factors and how to better your chances of survival, visit http://seagrant.umn.edu/coastal_communities/hypothermia.
2. Never drink alcohol while boating. Alcohol use was again the leading factor in all fatal boating accidents, and in 2013 contributed to 75 fatalities, 16% of recreational boating deaths.(1) Stay sharp on the water by leaving the alcohol on dry land.
3. Take a boating safety course. Only 13% of deaths occurred on boats where the operator had received boating safety instruction from a provider offering a course that meets U.S. Coast Guard-recognized national standards.(1) You may even qualify for a reduced insurance rate if you complete a safety course. Contact your local Coast Guard Auxiliary, U.S. Power Squadron chapter(2) or visit www.uscgboating.org for more information on courses in your area.
4. Stay in control by taking charge of your safety and that of your passengers. Boaters between the ages of 36 and 55 accounted for the highest percentage of boating fatalities (38%) and injuries (39%) than any age group in 2013.(1) With nearly 5,500 vessels involved in accidents in 2013, it is imperative to maintain control of your vessel and your passengers. 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. In 2013, violations of navigation rules were the leading contributing factor in more than 200 accidents and 15 deaths.(1) Know and understand boating safety procedures
and rules of navigation before taking to the water, and practice them without fail.
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