Summer’s on its way, and all across the northern hemisphere, people are taking to the water. While boats are fun, they’re also a potentially dangerous form of recreation—but a little extra caution can go a long way towards preventing an accident.
According to the latest report from the United States Coast Guard, there were 4,158 accidents involving recreational boats in the United States in 2015, with a total of 626 deaths and 2,613 injuries. That’s 5.3 deaths per 100,000 registered recreational vessels, and increase of nearly 2% from 2014.
1. Wear a life jacket
Yes, a life jacket really can save your life. 76% of victims who died in recreational boating accidents drowned. 85% of those drowning victims weren’t wearing a life jacket. Only 63 people drowned while wearing a life jacket in 2015, compared to 352 who weren’t wearing one. Make sure your life jacket is properly fitted—different life jackets are rated for different sizes and weights.
2. Stay sober
You shouldn’t be drunk behind the wheel of a car, and you shouldn’t be drunk on deck either. Alcohol is the leading cause of fatal boating accidents. Booze can dull your reflexes, increase your reaction time in hazardous situations, and impair your sense of judgement. Don’t be a drunken sailor.
3. Take a class on boating safety
Who wants to sit through a class when it’s sunny outside? You do. 71% of fatalities involving recreational boats involved an operator who had not received any boating safety instructions. A mere 15% percent of deaths occurred under the watch of an operator who had a nationally-approved boating safety education certificate.
4. Watch out!
Operator inattention, improper lookout, and excessive speed are three of the top five contributing factors in boating accidents. Collisions with a recreational vessel caused 990 accidents, 36 deaths, and 619 injuries; collisions with a fixed object caused 470 accidents, 58 deaths, and 321 injuries; grounding caused 350 accidents, 56 deaths, and 321 injuries in 2015 alone.
5. Maintain your vessel
Fires and explosions, equipment failures, and flooding and swamping were also major causes of fatalities and deaths involving recreational boats in 2015. Make sure you’ve done everything possible to ensure your boat is shipshape before you take it out on the water.