Practice safe boating at all times

Boating is a recreational activity enjoyed by thousands of people. Spring and summer are prime times of year for boating, though people who live in temperate climates may be able to enjoy boating all year long.

Everyone who takes to the water, novices and experienced boaters included, should be familiar with boating safety guidelines. In fact, it is a good idea to take a boating safety course prior to boating for the first time or as a refresher if it has been a while since reviewing the rules of the water.

Boating safety goes beyond learning basic operation and navigation. Safety guidelines also involve getting a vessel safety check. The U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary offers complimentary boating examinations. They can verify the presence and condition of safety equipment required by federal and state organizations. Boaters also may be able to conduct virtual vessel exams. This means boat owners can perform a self-inspection of the boats based on digital prompts. People who reside in Canada can contact the Office of Boating Safety to confirm whether vessel checks are required and how to get one. Licensure and registration of boats are part of responsible boat ownership both in the U.S. and Canada.

Along with boating inspections and water rules, some other ways to stay safe involve educating oneself of the larger dangers on the water. These generally involve risky boater behavior, such as failing to wear a life jacket or having an inadequate number of life jackets for passengers.

Alcohol use while boating also can be problematic. Being under the influence can adversely affect boaters’ reaction times and decision-making abilities. According to the 2018 U.S. Coast Guard Recreational Boating Statistics Report, alcohol continued to be the leading known contributing factor in fatal boating accidents in 2018, accounting for 100 deaths (19 percent) of total fatalities. Curbing alcohol use while boating can help avoid accidents and deaths.

Excessive speeds also can derail nice days on the water. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department says that, although there are no numerical speed limits on the water, excessive speed can cause accidents in crowded areas. Speeding makes it difficult to react to obstacles — including underwater wildlife — and bring the boat to a stop within a safe distance of others.

Boating season is heating up, and that means making safety a big part of operating and enjoying a vessel.

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