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It's Memorial Day Weekend! This is the time when millions of boaters around the United States will have their hulls cleaned, run the outboards through a cycle or through and launch their boats into the lake, river or harbor.
But before you have your family and friends prepare for a day of cruising under bright, sunny skies, take a moment to ensure your water vessel is fully equipped with all the safety gear necessary for a memorable holiday weekend.
Inspect Your Vessel
The first step in making sure your boat is safe is to check its interior and exterior. No matter how careful you are defective safety equipment can result in an accident. A pre-trip inspection of all the safety gear would mean the difference between life and death on a boat.
Ensure that every safety gear is in good working order. If your fire extinguishers have been sitting for five years or so, be sure to have them tested and replaced if needed. Clean your flare gun and have flares stocked. Check that your communication devices such as radios and emergency transponders have fresh batteries installed.
Even in a safe harbor, unexpected storms can cause your boat to pull on its mooring line and cause your boat to crash and bump into other boats tied up at the dock. Look for damage on all the lines and replace them if you notice any signs of aging or if it is ragged.
Check your steps and deck and look for any cracks or heaves. You wouldn't want your family and friends to trip and hurt themselves while they are on your boat, partying and having a great weekend. Fix the trip hazard before having anyone aboard.
Get Rid of the Alcohol
A vast majority of boat accidents are linked to alcohol. According to the United States Coast Guard, about half of all boating deaths involve alcohol.
Just like driving under the influence (DUI), it is illegal to drink and operate a boat in all 50 states, with each state implementing their unique penalties for those caught operating a boat under the influence. These punishments include hefty fines, possible jail time, and a potentially negative effect on your driver's license.
Leaving your cooler on land may not be a bad thing since it will be a step towards saving the lives of the people onboard.
Put On Your Life Jackets
Every boater is required to have a functioning life jacket for everyone onboard. The most common injuries in water accidents are caused by drowning. Wearing your life jacket will considerably lower the chances that you will drown in a water accident. This is a must if you have children onboard.
When involved in a serious boating accident, those inside the boat can easily get thrown out and into the waters. The risk even gets higher if the water is rough that day. United States Coast Guard-approved life jackets are designed to keep your head above water, helping you remain in a position that helps you breathe. If you have a boat that is at least 16 feet or bigger, be sure you have at least one Type IV device as well that those in the water can cling to.
Proper sizing is important when it comes to life jackets. Adult-sized jackets won't work for children so be sure that everyone onboard has a life jacket that fits them. Also, dispose of any life jackets that are damaged, faded, or leaky as these may not function properly in the event of an emergency situation.
Be a Responsible Boater
Just like if you have an unlicensed individual driving on the highway, a person without proper training piloting a boat is dangerous to those in their boat and other boats around them. Studies suggest that a majority of boating accidents are caused by driver error further validating the point of having a licensed person in the pilot's seat.
In addition, it is important to be mindful of the condition of the water that you're sailing on. If an area where you're boating looks to be overcrowded, avoid doing watersports such as tubing, water skiing, or jet skiing. These areas have a much higher rate of collision than less crowded spaces.
Each year, people are seriously hurt on the water. Most often than not, these injuries would have been prevented had the boaters taken necessary steps to keep themselves and their passengers safe. So before you get on the water this Memorial Day weekend, be sure to follow these simple tips so you and your family can have a great boating experience.