What New Boaters Should Know About Boating Safety
Boats are a fantastic way to take a vacation to the next level. From fishing to surfing and cruising to water sports, a boat is always a hit. However, whether you own your own boat, are planning a purchase, or are just looking to rent, there is plenty that you should know. Water and vehicles can be a dangerous combination for those who are unprepared and unfamiliar with the particular hazards a boat can present.
Although boats and cars are quite different vehicles, many of the same basic safety principles still apply. Just as drivers typically take a safety course before hitting the road, a boater safety course will teach you how to drive, navigate, control, and steer, as well as the particular rules of the water. Boats do not handle the same way as cars, so understanding basic operation before driving a boat will help you operate one safely. Also, avoid alcohol while driving a boat. It is just as dangerous to drive a boat while intoxicated as a car, and you may run afoul of the law. Intoxication can havemore than one definition, so it may be best to stay away from alcohol completely. This should keep you, your passengers, and your boat safe and legal.
Being on a boat means you need life jackets.Safety is paramount when you’re out on open water. Drowning is a big risk when out on the water, and a proper life jacket can save your life. Even strong swimmers can be knocked unconscious in an accident, and alcohol can greatly increase the likelihood of accidents and of people ending up in the water. Children and non-experienced swimmers should always have a life jacket on when in a boat, and the boat should have at least one jacket per occupant located within fast and easy reach. In addition, signaling gear is vital in the event your boat loses power. Flashlights, flares, mirrors, and whistles can all attract attention. A first aid kit is always important to have in any vehicle.
Unlike road vehicles, boats are extremely vulnerable to rough weather. An inexperienced captain makes the danger even more acute. For this reason, it is important to check the weather before planning a boat excursion, and to head back should inclement weather appear suddenly. Lightning on the open water is especially dangerous, as your boat—and you—are likely the tallest thing for a good distance. High winds and rough waves can capsize your boat, even on lakes or smaller bodies, and low visibility increases the risk of a collision with another boat, water hazard, or land.
Boating is not a risk-free activity. A boat operator or captain must be responsible for the safety of all passengers. Fortunately, with knowledge and planning, the risks of boating can be minimized. This will allow for a fun and exciting trip the next time you hit the water.
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