Here’s a hard fact for our community to swallow: according to last year’s US Coast Guard’s annual report, Florida leads the country in boating accidents at a whopping 681 in 2016. Worse yet, many of these accidents are avoidable. Again, according to this report, 15% of all boating deaths were directly associated with alcohol and 83% of drowning victims were not wearing PFDs.
The question is no longer if boating accidents are a problem but instead, what can be done to stop the recklessness and slow the rate of injuries and death?
How You Can Prevent a Boating Accident
- Boating and Booze Do Not Mix: We’ve said it multiple times before, but it bears repeating. Do not drink and operate your vessel. Do you take drinking and driving seriously? Yes? Then the same caution should be heeded on the water. Operating a vessel while over the limit (.08 or higher if 21+) is illegal and puts everyone on the water with you at risk due to your slowed reaction times and lowered inhibitions and judgement.
- Make PFDs a Promise: So often, an otherwise minimal accident can turn tragic if an operator or passenger falls into the water without a PFD. Though you may consider yourself a competent swimmer, there are almost unlimited ways that you could end up incapacitated or panicked. That’s not to mention the possibility of fast currents, rough waves or bad weather, which could all make swimming back to the safety of your vessel next to impossible. Make sure you and all passengers are always wearing US-Coast-Guard-approved PFDs.
- Speed Kills: Again, just like speeding on the highway, exceeding speed limits on the water can be dangerous and hazardous to wildlife and other boaters. High speeds can cause disruptive wakes that can destroy oyster beds and disturb fellow boaters, as well as make it more difficult to maneuver around sea grasses, coral reefs, sand banks and wildlife. Worse yet, especially in low light or fog, you may be unable to see other vessels anchored or traveling on the same waters, which could lead to a catastrophic accident. Always follow posted speed and wake limits and stay vigilant for risks.
- Safety First: Before you even consider taking that new boat out on her maiden voyage, we highly recommend taking an accredited safety course. Even if you’re an experienced boater, sometimes we can adopt bad, unsafe habits over time that are hard to shake. Take a safety course, brush up on or learn the basics for the first time and you can ensure you’re as safe as possible when you hit the water.
Boat accidents are impossible to totally stop. Just like car accidents, some things are simply out of your control. However, boating accidents can be significantly reduced if boaters simply stay sober behind the wheel, always wear PFDs, follow speed and wake limits, and brush up on some key safety standards of operation. Stay safe, have fun and we’ll see you on the water!