What better way to celebrate National Boating and Fishing Week than to review some solid tips to prevent boating injuries?
If you answered "by getting on a boat, fishing, wakeboarding, or otherwise enjoying America's ample collection of amazing waterways," you're definitely right.
But in the interest of "safety first," before you hit the H20, check out our Top 10 tips for preventing boating injuries:
- Don't drink and boat! Drinking and boating can dramatically increase the odds that you'll be injured. Boating under the influence increases the odds of a boating fatality by 34 percent, according to the U.S. Coast Guard. It's also against the law.
- Don't turn down your emergency radio. This lesson comes from a real-life tragedy: The owners of a Philadelphia duck boat settled a wrongful death suit for $15 million after two tourists were killed in a crash. The boat's first mate had turned down his emergency radio and missed crash warnings.
- Don't speed. In most states, including Texas, you can be cited for excessive speed while boating.
- Make sure your boat is properly maintained. Make sure your boat is in good working order before you take it out on the water with passengers. If someone is injured or killed as a result of shoddy maintenance, you (or the owners of the boat that you rented) could be sued for negligence.
- If you're renting a boat, read your liability waiver carefully. If you are renting a boat, you're likely to be asked to sign a liability waiver. Whether or not you actually read it, you'll probably be bound by it if anything goes wrong. Make sure you know what you're agreeing to.
- Know the law about life jackets. Even in states with no life jacket laws, the U.S. Coast Guard requires that children under 13 on moving boats wear a Coast Guard-approved life jacket, according to the BoatUS Foundation.
- Don't overload your boat. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources reminds boaters that overloading your boat with gear or taking on too many passengers may increase the risk of capsizing or swamping. All boats have weight capacities that should be posted near the operator's position.
- Know what to do in case of an emergency. The American Boating Association recommends that you "know before you go" when it comes to boating safety. Along with making sure your safety equipment is in good working order, make sure you know how to use it. They also recommend having a free vessel safety check performed by a qualified U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary Vessel Examiner.
- Watch the weather. Although boat safety and communications technology has come a long way, if you get caught out on the water in rough weather, you may be risking your life.
- Take a boating safety course. The best way to ensure that you know the safest procedures for operating a boat is to take a boating safety course -- or to retake such a course, if it's been a while. A list of available courses can be found at the U.S. Coast Guard Boating Safety Resource Center.
Have a safe National Boating and Fishing Week! And don't forget -- make sure you have a valid fishing license as well (if required)!
Editor's Note, May 31, 2016: This post was first published in June 2014. It has since been updated.