The nation’s biggest recreational boating safety event of the year on the Chesapeake Bay and beyond, National Safe Boating Week, is right around the corner, May 22–28, 2021. The annual event helps remind boaters to keep boating safety front and center all season long. How can you be a safety hero aboard your boat? Here are three tips from the BoatUS Foundation for Boating Safety and Clean Water.
1. The best life jacket is the one you will wear, meaning one that’s comfortable. There are many lightweight inflatable life jackets that fit the bill. Check the jacket’s label to ensure it’s approved for your type of boating. If the kids are visiting, don’t be tempted to put a child in an ill-fitting adult life jacket. The BoatUS Foundation’s Life Jacket Loaner program for kids offers a free and easy way to borrow an infant, child or teen life jacket for the day or weekend with locations at nearly 600 marinas, boat clubs, and other waterfront locations across the country.
2. Learn from what the U.S. Coast Guard boating safety reports tell us: Operator inattention, improper lookout, operator inexperience, excessive speed, and alcohol rank as the top five primary contributing factors in accidents. This summer, recreational boaters can focus on these factors by putting down the cellphone, practicing using S.C.A.N. procedures to avoid distracted boating, taking a free boating safety course, slowing down, and driving more defensively, especially in congested boating areas. Alcohol use is the leading known contributing factor in fatal boating accidents, so save the celebration for after the boat is safely tied up for the night. Boat operators also need to recognize they are responsible for the safety of their guests, including inebriated ones.
3. Remember to wear an engine cutoff switch if your boat is less than 26-feet, traveling on plane or above displacement speed. Some exemptions apply to this new rule went into effect April 1, including if the vessel has an enclosed helm. Engine cutoff switches can prevent boat strike injuries after an operator has been ejected from the vessel or displaced from the helm.