As summer approaches, more people will take the water on their boats

If you live in a state like Florida, the boating season can last all year long. No matter the season, it is always important to stay safer on the water, whether you’re on a lake, bay, or ocean. This is especially true if you plan to have kids on board.

We cover six boating tips that will help keep you safer on the open sea.

Why boating safety matters

We are all too aware of the dangers associated with driving. However, many mistakenly believe nothing bad can happen on the water. Nothing could be further from the truth.

In 2017, there were 4,291 boating accidents, with 2,629 injuries and nearly 700 fatalities. In almost every case, the deaths were preventable.

Boating smart and taking precautions can save lives.

1. Always wear a life jacket

Drowning is the number one cause of boating deaths. In some states, life jackets are mandatory. Even if they’re not, it’s a good idea to wear one any time you’re on a boat, even if you’re a good swimmer.

Children should have life jackets on at all times. Be sure you have a properly fitting life jacket that will keep your head above water, even if you are unconscious.

2. Pay attention to the weather

Before setting off, check the local weather conditions. Most smartphones allow you to track incoming weather. Even if the day starts out beautiful, the weather can quickly become dangerous.

Dark clouds, lightning, and sudden changes in the wind or a drop in temperature are all signs of an approaching storm.

3. Don’t boat under the influence

Just like you shouldn’t drink and drive a car, you should never drink and get behind the controls of a boat. Alcohol is among the top five contributing factors in boating accidents.

Around 17% of recreational boating fatalities were the direct result of drunk boating or boating under the influence (BUI).

“It is illegal to drink and operate a boat in all 50 states, with each state enforcing their own unique penalties for those caught,” according to Boat-ed.

For instance, in Florida, having a blood alcohol level of 0.08% can result in fines, jail time, and possible felony charges.

Alcohol diminishes your judgment and skews your perception of speed and distance between you and other objects. If you’re on the water at dusk or at night, the problem can be even worse.

4. Pay attention to your surroundings

The top two types of boating accidents involve collisions with another vessel or fixed objects. Operator inattention and improper lookout are the top contributing factors of accidents.

The driver should always be aware of their surroundings and spot possible hazards, giving them time to take proper precautions. Remember, there is no such thing as “slamming on the brakes” with a boat. You won’t be able to stop quickly.

Also, be sure to pay attention to lane markers and posted speed limit signs (yes, there are speed limits even on the water).

5. Have a working radio

If you do get into trouble, you want to be able to call for help immediately. Cell coverage can be spotty on the water, and if your phone gets wet, it won’t work.

As a backup, make sure you have a VHF marine radio so you can communicate with the Coast Guard or other rescue operators. These devices are also designed to help guide rescuers to your location.

“All marine radios sold after June 1999 have a built-in feature called DSC, or digital selective calling, a button that sends an automatic mayday call with your vessel’s name and location,” according to Popular Mechanics.

NOTE: Make sure you register your marine radio so this feature functions properly!

6. Take a boating safety course

If you plan to buy or operate a boat, it’s a good idea to take a boating safety course. Many nonprofit organizations offer these courses for free. Kids as young as 12 can sign up for a boating course, so your children can take part, too.

Learning how to safely operate a boat will drastically lower your chances of running into trouble. In fact, only 10% of boating fatalities happened with a driver who had gone through formal safety training.

Visit BoatUS.org to find a free boating safety course near you. The Monica Burguera Foundation (MBF) also offers marine safety courses in South Florida in conjunction with the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary.

Insure your boat

Just like your home and car, you can also buy boat insurance. This will help pay to repair your boat if you ever get in an accident. We also provide options to cover Roadside Assistance, On-Water Towing, and Total Loss Replacement.

If you have any questions about boat insurance or you would like a quote, contact us today.

This blog and website are made available by the publisher for educational and informational purposes only. It is not to be used as a substitute for competent insurance, legal, or tax advice from a licensed professional in your state.