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Boating Accidents - Helpful Prevention Tips

Aug 18, 2007
According to national Coast Guard statistics, 80% of all boating accidents are caused by human error.

Most fatal accidents in small boats are caused by drowning due to a failure to wear a life jacket or other Personal Flotation Device (PFD). Even good swimmers find the trauma of going into the water unexpectedly, coupled with stress and fatigue, can render them helpless in a water emergency.

Non-fatal accidents are most commonly caused by collisions with other boats or objects in the water, according to reports.

Getting Safely On and Off of a Boat:
Believe it or not, a large number of passenger accidents occur before the boat ever leaves the dock. Small boats, especially, can be unstable, tipping easily. Be sure that passengers board the boat carefully, being sure to step into the centerline of the boat with one hand on the pier, and the other on the boat. Practice lowering yourself into the center while still on land. Other tips include: being sure the boat is firmly attached to the pier; and wearing a PFD at all times, even while boarding the boat.

Another danger: trying to carry items on board with you. Always board first, then have someone hand you the items to bring aboard.

Safety Rules on the Water:
Once underway, take heed to avoid standing up, or riding on the bow. Always keep the boat steady, avoiding sharp turns.

Capsizing is the #1 small boating accident emergency. All new boat models, (built after 1978), have built-in flotation devices that keep it from sinking. Should you be involved in a capsizing accident, stay with the boat if possible.

Why is capsizing so common? In their rush to hit the water, many people fail to take heed of the following:

Overloading: Not watching how much weight you're carrying can cause a boat to swamp, or take on water. Too much equipment and too many people aboard can slow the boat and reduce its freeboard area above the waterline. Avoid overloading by carefully keeping track of how much your boat can carry, and staying well within restrictive levels.

Improper Weight Distribution: Not placing people and supplies in the proper balance throughout the boat can make it even more unstable.

Waves: Waves, too, can be a big factor in capsizing, especially when they come at you unexpectedly. Anticipate all waves, and aim the bow at them.

What to Do if Someone Falls From The Boat:
Hopefully, even if someone falls from your boat, they will be wearing the proper Personal Floatation Device to keep them afloat until you can reach them. Never jump in after them unless you are a trained lifeguard who knows how to handle panicky people in the water. Otherwise, they may pull you under also. Throw them a flotation device and or a line and pull them in. Use your whistle or horn to call for help immediately!

Boating can be a lot of fun, but it can also be very dangerous if proper safety rules are not followed. Be prepared for an emergency by knowing what to do no matter what happens.
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