According to the U.S. Coast Guard, 398 people drowned in boating-related incidents in 2013. That’s more than one person for every day of the year! A number of these deaths can be prevented by taking proper safety precautions like wearing a life jacket, sailing sober, and taking a boating education course.
Want to know more? Here’s a list of common, and avoidable, causes of drowning and solutions to help you stay safe on the water.
Weak (or nonexistent) swimming skills
Are you lacking swimming skills? It’s always a good idea to learn strong swimming skills before heading out onto the water — you never know what could happen! You can take formal swimming lessons from organizations like the American Red Cross or your local YMCA.
Failure to wear a life jacket
Did you know that 85% of boat accident victims weren’t wearing a life jacket? Err on the side of caution, and always wear your life jacket.
Swimming in unsupervised areas
Going swimming? Make sure you’re in a location where someone can keep an eye on you. That someone could be a parent, lifeguard, a friend, or just the general public.
Lacking a separation barrier
Safe pools have some kind of physical barrier around them to prevent access, specifically by small children. This includes fencing with gates, locks and latches. Besides a barrier, there should be additional safety items available, like alarms, pool safety covers, water safety equipment and an easily accessible phone for emergencies.
Not recognizing what a drowning victim looks like
Drowning in movies is usually a huge spectacle with lots of flailing and splashing around, but in reality it isn’t always so obvious. In addition to seeing someone struggling to swim, keep a look out for more subtle signs like glassy eyes and a tilted-back head.
Use of alcohol and drugs
Both alcohol and drugs impair your balance, vision and judgment — three senses you’ll definitely need when boating, especially if you happen to fall overboard. When it comes to boating, it’s best to leave the drinks on land. If you have been drinking never operate a boat. BUI laws exist just like DUI laws.
Lacking boating education and skills
In most states, you must have a boating education card to operate a boat. Not only is it a legal requirement, but the knowledge gained will help keep you safe in case of any emergencies. Need your card? Take a state and NASBLA approved boating safety course through Boat Ed or ilearntoboat.