For a lot of us in Louisiana, summertime means spending lots of time on the water, whether we are boating, fishing, or paddling. No matter what recreational activity you participate in, safety should always be the top priority.
According to the U.S. Coast Guard, there were 4,064 boating accidents last year alone, resulting in 610 deaths. Although accidents do happen, many can be prevented with the proper safety precautions.
Remember to follow these safety tips every time you are on the water.
1. Use a life jacket at all times.
Of the drowning deaths last year, the U.S. Coast Guard reported that over 80% of victims were not wearing life jackets. Many people don’t feel that it is necessary to wear a life jacket, especially if they know how to swim. However, if you fall from the boat or dock and injure yourself, a life jacket could save your life. If you don’t know how to swim, it’s even more important that you wear a life jacket.
Life jackets should be well-fitted and made to support your weight. The U.S. Coast Guard has a guide to help you choose the right life jacket. Water wings, noodles, inner-tubes, and other pool toys are not suitable life-saving devices.
2. Learn to operate the boat correctly.
Operating errors are a major contributor to boating accidents. Do not attempt to operate a boat without the knowledge and skills to do so correctly. Failure to correctly operate a boat puts you and your passengers in danger. There are a number of courses available, both locally and online, that you can take to learn the skills you need.
3. Avoid alcohol use.
It is illegal to operate a boat under the influence of alcohol. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), alcohol is involved in nearly one-third of recreational boating deaths. Alcohol impairs your judgement, vision, and coordination. It’s just as bad as drinking and driving, and just as deadly.
Alcohol use puts passengers at risk, too. Heat and sun exposure combined with alcohol use makes a person more likely to become impaired quickly, and also increases the risk of dehydration. It’s best to leave alcohol on dry land.
4. Check the forecast first.
Sometimes the weather can be unpredictable, but checking the weather before you leave could help you avoid a weather situation that you are not equipped to handle. If you do find yourself in sudden bad weather while you are out on the water, remain calm, make sure everyone is wearing a life jacket, and get to dock as quickly as possible without moving at an unsafe speed.
5. Be aware of carbon monoxide accumulation.
Boat engines emit carbon monoxide, a poisonous gas that you cannot see, smell, or taste. Although it is more common on houseboats, carbon monoxide can accumulate inside or outside any motorized boat near the exhaust vents. Carbon monoxide poisoning can cause headache, confusion, fatigue, seizures, dizziness, loss of consciousness, and nausea. If you or a passenger experiences any of these symptoms, seek medical attention immediately. Carbon monoxide poisoning can be deadly if left untreated.
When you are on the water, whether recreationally or for work, safety should always be the top priority.