During the summer, many Americans will enjoy boating in the open waters of the lakes, rivers, and oceans in and surrounding the United States. However, while boating can be an exciting activity for families and individuals, there are plenty of safety precautions to take in and around boats this season to avoid accidents, injuries, and fatalities. To encourage smart decisions in and around the water this summer, the National Safe Boating Council is partnering with municipalities all over the country to host National Safe Boating Week, an official national safety awareness week, from May 17 to May 23. The National Safe Boating Council’s goal is to “promote a safer recreational boating experience through education, outreach and training,” according to their website.National Safe Boating Week opportunities vary by region, but many cities and states will sponsor specialized training sessions and safety courses throughout the week and into the beginning of boating season. Many states will also accommodate those who require boating certifications during the week by offering the necessary classes.
In New York State, the Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation has instituted a law requiring anyone born on or after May 1, 1996 to take an 8-hour safety course and earn a certificate before operating a motor boat if they have not previously done so. While this training is meant for those under the age of 18, participation in the course is encouraged for all boaters.
State boating laws and requirements differ, so be sure to check your state’s boating laws before heading out on the water. In addition to safety courses, there are plenty tips that all boat travelers should follow to reduce the risk of tragedy, such as:
- Make sure that everyone on board has a life jacket if needed
- Be aware of the weather while boating, and avoid boating during a storm
- Never operate a boat while impaired by drugs or alcohol
- Don’t overload your boat with people or objects
Boat owners should also encourage passengers to use precaution when boarding a boat and never let children run on a wet dock. For marina owners and families with private docks, having safe dock equipment is essential to boating safety, as these structures are necessary for getting safely into and out of a boat.
Floating docks, which are suitable for freshwater and can be engineered to withstand 70 mile per hour winds, are a low-maintenance alternative to wooden docks and can be just as safe. However, the same caution should be applied when boarding a boat from a floating dock.
Additionally, residential and commercial dock owners should ensure they have the correct dock floats, which are the structural items that sit below the walkway to lift it out of the water.
“It’s crucial from both a structural stability, and a safety standpoint to make sure your docks are people-ready.” explains the president of Dock Boxes Unlimited. “Choosing the correct dock float sizings to suit your particular circumstance is one of the most critically important decisions a marina owner will make.”Throughout this year’s National Safe Boating Week and the summer boating season, utilizing proper equipment and safety gear is imperative in preventing fatalities and injuries. The U.S. Coast Guard reports that drowning is the leading cause of death in recreational boating; of those deaths, 84 percent were not wearing life vests.Each year, there are many more injuries due to improper conduct on and around boats. Therefore, it is imperative that everyone participating in recreational boating this season does so in the safest manner possible.