The sun, water and wind can make for a great day to go cruising along a river, lake, or majestic bay in a boat. For many individuals and families this is a favorite summer pastime. It can be safe, as well as fun, if the fundamental rules of boating are understood and observed.
The National Safety Council recommends the following tips for recreational boaters:
- Don't drink and boat. Boating while intoxicated is just as dangerous as drinking and driving. The "designated driver" system doesn't work in boating. Everyone is at risk because the boat's motion, coupled with alcohol, increases the chances of losing balance and falling overboard.
- Everyone on the boat should wear a Coast Guard approved personal flotation device (PFD) or life jacket. A PFD is the best protection against drowning
- Check the weather and water conditions before leaving the shore. If it looks like storms are brewing or the water is very choppy, wait for another day to go boating.
- Limit the number of passengers in a small boat. Don't exceed the limit allowed by the boat's capacity plate. Keep in mind the size and weight of each person--equal distribution of weight will limit the possibility of capsizing.
- Have visual distress devices approved by the Coast Guard on board. Pyrotechnic red flares, orange smoke, orange distress flags, and electric distress lights must be in good working order and easily accessible.
- Use the "one-third rule" in fuel management. Use one-third of the fuel to go, one-third to get back, and keep one-third in reserve.
- Always tell someone where you will be boating, when you will be back, what your boat looks like, and other identifying information.
Recreational boating is second only to highway transportation in the number of fatalities that occur each year. Alcohol is involved in most of these accidents.
To ensure that you are following safe boating procedures, sign-up for a boating safety course near your home.
For more information on this or other safety issues, please contact the Public Affairs and Life Safety Education Section at 703-246-3801 or TTY 711.
Always remember: Boating and booze don't mix!