As the weather warms up and plans are made for spring and summer activities, enjoying local waterways on a boat is a common pastime. While recreational boating is fun and can make for lasting memories, it is made even better when following basic safety guidelines.

In 2021, nearly 5,000 recreational boating accidents occurred according to the U.S. Coast Guard. By following basic safety practices the risk of an accident resulting in injury or even death can be significantly reduced. The following are five simple boating safety steps to follow:

1. Life jackets are essential

Even the strongest swimmers can find themselves in challenging conditions when in the water, particularly if the unexpected happens. That’s why wearing a  life jacket while on a boat is highly recommended. Of all fatal boating accidents, 81% are drowning victims. Of those drowning victims, 83% were not wearing a life jacket. Simply put, wearing a life jacket can save your life. 

2. Familiarize yourself with state boating laws

Just like driving a car, there are laws that must be followed when boating. Keeping yourself and your passengers safe starts with obeying the rules of the water to minimize the risk of accidents and injury.

3. Perform regular equipment checks

Just because things appear to be working properly, doesn’t mean that there won’t be an underlying issue with your boat. Before launching from the dock be sure to check that engines, propellers and any other equipment are in good working order.

4. Don’t drive under the influence

Operating a boating vehicle while under the influence is never a good idea. It is illegal to drive a boat while intoxicated and you will be cited with an OWI if your blood alcohol content is above the legal limit.  Worse yet, if you are in an accident while driving a boat while intoxicated, you can be charged with significant criminal charges.

You endanger yourself and others when you choose to operate a vehicle while impaired. Reaction times are slower, motor skill function worsens and the ability to concentrate declines while under the influence of intoxicants. The key to safe boating is staying alert and aware of your surroundings.

5. Check the weather before heading out on the water

Weather can change in an instant. Know the weather forecast and be prepared to cut your time on the water short if inclement weather is on the horizon. Always keep an eye out for changing weather patterns and never go out on the water when a storm is approaching. Poor weather can create choppy, unmanageable water conditions that increase chances of accidents and injury.

If injury does occur, contact an attorney

If you or a loved one is injured during a boating activity that results in medical attention, contact an attorney to discuss the options available. The personal injury attorneys at Herrling Clark Law Firm are highly experienced in recovering compensation for those who have been injured in boating accidents and can provide consultation at no cost.