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Tips On Boating Safely with Children

More than 70 million Americans enjoy recreational boating each year. Unfortunately, about 3,000 people were injured and more than 650 died in boating accidents in 2010, according to the latest statistics from the U.S. Coast Guard. That’s why it is so important to practice boat and water sports safety.

Here are 10 ways to ensure a safe boat ride this summer.

1.    Wear life vests. Most boating-related drownings can be prevented by wearing personal flotation devices. Of the 484 people who drowned in 2010, nearly 400 of them were NOT wearing life preservers. Recreational boats must carry one appropriately sized life jacket approved by the Coast Guard for each person onboard, and the jackets must be kept accessible and in good condition. Children 14 and under need to wear child-sized life jackets and must wear them at all times onboard. The life jacket should fit snugly and not allow the child’s chin or ears to slip through the neck opening.

2.    Don’t substitute floats or toys for life jackets. Air-filled swimming aids, such as water wings and inner tubes, are not safety devices and should never be substituted for portable flotation devices.

3.    Take a boating education course before operating a boat or personal water craft. Contrary to popular belief, driving a boat is not the same as driving a car. Most reported boating incidents in 2010 involved operator-controllable factors: carelessness or recklessness, inattentiveness, inexperience or unsafe speeds. Ninety-one percent of the fatalities occurred on boats where the boat operator had not attended a boating safety education course.

4.    Do not allow children under age 16 to operate personal watercraft. In 2010, 21 children under age 14 lost their lives while boating. Personal watercraft accidents accounted for 20 percent of all boating accidents reported to the U.S. Coast Guard, injuring 776 and killing 38.

5.    Never drink alcoholic beverages while boating. Alcohol use affects judgment, vision, balance and coordination. Alcohol use was linked to 330 boating accidents and 126 deaths in 2010, according to the Coast Guard.

6.    Make sure riders are seated and holding on while the boat is in operation. This is especially true for little ones, whose low weight could make it easy for rough waters to bump them out of the boat.

7.    Avoid boating alone. Even adults and seasoned swimmers can get into trouble around water.

8.    Always have a spotter. If pulling a skier or other water recreation device, always have someone other than the driver to watch for hidden dangers and quickly alert the driver if the rider falls. Also, whether tubing, skiing, wakeboarding or participating in other water sports, all participants should wear life vests.

9.    Get a Vessel Safety Check.  The Vessel Safety Check is a free public service provided by the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary and U.S. Power Squadron volunteer organizations. Volunteers check safety equipment and provide information about equipment purpose, safety procedures and applicable regulations. For more information, visit

10.    Be aware of the risk of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning. All internal combustion engines emit CO, an odorless, colorless, poisonous gas. In the early stages, the symptoms of CO poisoning are similar to seasickness and CO can kill in a matter of minutes. Potential CO poisoning exists during the operation of any gasoline-powered engine. To avoid CO poisoning, be aware of the risk, ensure sufficient ventilation, properly install and maintain equipment and use CO detectors.

For the welfare of your children, your family and all those boating with you, please be careful. You can never go overboard on water safety.

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