I learned to drive a boat when I was 10. The small green fishing boat my grandfather kept at his lake cabin only had a 5 horsepower engine — faster than paddling a canoe but not much. Still, it was fast enough to get me in trouble the first time I took it out by myself. When I bounced the boat off a pier, I learned an important safety lesson: Boats don’t have brakes. Classic operator error!
As summer heats up, millions of Americans are taking to the water. The worst that will happen to most boaters is a touch of sunburn and seasickness. But some will have their day ruined because they or other weekend skippers failed to act safely. In 2011 there were 4,588 recreational boating accidents in the U.S. and its territories in which 736 people died and 3,081 were injured, according to the U.S. Coast Guard.
What’s amazing about those statistics is that most boating accidents are preventable. Alcohol use is the leading cause of accidents and plays a role in 16 percent of fatalities. Other common accident causes: The boat operator was inexperienced or not paying attention, they did not have a lookout, or they were operating the vessel at excessive speed.
Most of the deaths were caused by drowning—largely because victims were not wearing a life jacket. Besides putting down the cocktail and putting on a life jacket when you head out on the water, here are some other tips from the American Boating Association that will keep your fun day afloat:
• Have proper emergency equipment and preparation
• Have a telecommunication system
• Be well informed about the weather and tides
• Learn how to navigate
• Maintain your boat
• Use a lookout, especially if you’re pulling someone behind your boat
• Know emergency first aid
Join a live Twitter chat today from 12-2 EST with experts from the CDC to get all your summer safety questions answered!
Want more safe-summer tips? Visit Sharecare’s Summer Safety Center. And if you’re an Android user, check out the free S.O.S. Emergency Support App for Android, created by Sharecare and the American Red Cross.
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