6 Boating Safety Tips to Stay Safe on the Water
May is National Boating Safety Month, and there’s no better time to start preparing yourself and your vessels for the summer season. Before heading out on the water, make sure to inspect your boat and ensure all required safety equipment is on board.
About 70% of boaters involved in accidents never have taken a safe-boating course, and 85% of boating accident fatalities nationwide are due to sudden, unexpected capsizing or falls overboard.
Wearing a life jacket is critical to surviving a boating accident. Nine out of 10 drowning victims are not wearing a life jacket. This device can make the difference between life and death for anyone experiencing an emergency on the water.
Put on your life jacket before leaving the dock, and keep it on. Be sure it is fitted properly, in good condition and securely fastened. Children, ages 13 and younger, are required by law to wear a life jacket while on board a moving boat. Remember: Life jackets worn … nobody mourns!
Education and awareness are the best weapons in preventing boating accidents. Let’s make this season a safe one for you, your family and friends. Here are six boating safety tips to help you boat safely and responsibly.
- Take a boat safety course. The U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary Flotilla 22 offers hands-on classroom boating safety courses. View the schedule at https://bit.ly/3uix0cd, or email Public Education Officer Greg Fonzeno at email@example.com.
- Know the laws. Did you know Georgia boating laws require you to adhere to the 100-foot rule? The 100-foot rule prohibits people from operating all vessels, including personal watercraft, at a speed greater than idle speed within 100 feet of any vessel that is moored, anchored or adrift, outside normal traffic channels, or within 100 feet of any dock, wharf, pier, piling, bridge structure, person in the water or shoreline adjacent to a full-time or part-time residence, public park, public beach, public swimming area, marina, restaurant or other public use area.
- Don’t drink and operate a boat. Half of all boating fatalities involve alcohol. Four hours in a boat on the water, being exposed to noise, vibration, sun, glare, wind and other motion, produces boater’s hypnosis (fatigue). It slows reaction time as much as if you were legally drunk. Adding alcohol intensifies the effect (www.boatus.org/alcohol-and-boating/effects). One hundred percent of accidents and fatalities from boating under the influence are preventable. Think before you drink.
- Get connected! Always use an engine cut-off switch (ECOS) on a powerboat or personal watercraft. The ECOS usually is a red coiled lanyard that attaches to the operator, or a wireless key fob or wristband. It stops the boat’s engine if the operator, or even a passenger, falls overboard.
- Know before you go. Always check weather reports before heading out on the water.
- Be aware of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning. CO is a colorless, odorless and tasteless gas, which essentially is undetectable by humans. It is produced when an engine that uses a carbon-based fuel, like gasoline, is running. It can make you sick in seconds, and high concentrations of CO can kill. Symptoms are similar to and often confused with seasickness or alcohol intoxication. Avoid closed-off, poorly ventilated areas of a boat when its engine is running, and never ride or hang on a swim platform, where gasses accumulate. Most of all, install and maintain a marine-grade CO detector.
For more questions concerning boating or water safety, please contact the Allatoona Lake Operations Project Management Office at 678-721-6700.
– Christopher Purvis is lead ranger at Lake Allatoona over Partnerships, Volunteers and Project Security. He has been a ranger on Allatoona Lake since 2005.