The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the National Safe Boating Council remind the public to “Boat Responsibly and Wear It!” National Safe Boating Week is May 21-27, but the awareness raised should last throughout the year. “Boat Responsibly” by being alert and careful when taking out your boat, making sure you are prepared and always remember to “Wear It”! Wear your life jacket every time you are on the water. An accident can happen quickly and unexpectedly so you must be geared up in order to help yourself and your passengers on board.
According to U.S. Coast Guard statistics, approximately two-thirds of fatal accident victims drowned. Out of those who drowned, 90 percent were not wearing a life jacket. There are so many different types of life jackets today that are smaller and more comfortable; it’s much easier to “Wear It!” at all times. Life jackets are part of the gear stylish and knowledgeable boaters wear.
Knowing the nautical rules of the road is important for boaters. Knowing what to do when meeting, crossing or overtaking another boat can prevent costly damage to your boat, personal injury or even loss of life. Whenever you believe there is a threat of collision you should slow down, stop or steer away from the situation in question. Maintaining a proper lookout and a safe speed are part of the navigation rules and should be an important part of boat operation.
It’s dangerous to operate a boat when drinking. Operating a boat under the influence of alcohol or drugs is illegal in all states and is a violation of federal law. An operator with a blood alcohol content about .08 (equivalent to consuming five beers in one hour for the average 180-pound male) is 10 times more likely to die in a boating accident than an operator with zero blood alcohol level.
All boat engines produce carbon monoxide, an odorless, colorless, poisonous gas that can kill you in a matter of minutes. Boaters are killed every year because of improper cabin ventilation, poorly maintained equipment, and careless behavior. You do not have to be inside the boat to be at risk. Boaters have died from exposure on the swim platforms of their boats and in other areas where carbon monoxide exhaust may accumulate or be emitted. Be aware of the early symptoms (irritated eyes, headache, nausea, weakness and dizziness). Use carbon monoxide detectors on your boat and stay off the swim platform when the engine (or generators) are running.
Be safe and boat responsibly by wearing your lifejacket, knowing basic boating rules and guidelines, never abuse alcohol while boating, and be aware of carbon monoxide poisoning.
For information about water safety tips, visit greatriverwatertrail.org or contact the National Great Rivers Museum at (618) 462-6979.