Recreational boating activity soars during warm weather months, and so do boating incidents and injuries.
According to the U.S. Coast Guard’s “Boating Statistics 2003,” the most recent year available, there are almost 13 million registered recreational boats in the United States, up from previous years. Overall boating fatalities continue to occur, with 703 recreational boating fatalities reported in 2003. Close to 6,000 boating accidents were reported, and more than 4,000 people required medical treatment beyond first aid. Property damage exceeded $40 million.
Though the statistics are sobering, the risk of boating injuries and accidents can be minimized. According to the U.S. Coast Guard, the majority of reported incidents involved operator controllable factors and can be prevented.
The INAMAR Recreational Marine Insurance unit of ACE Select Markets – the division of ACE USA that focuses on the underwriting and marketing of specialty insurance products – re-released a top 10 list detailing tips to help recreational boaters stay safe while reducing the number of preventable accidents that occur each year.
“There’s no mystery to boating safety. Understanding and obeying navigational rules and safety procedures is proven to save lives while reducing injuries and property damage,” said Peter Lafontaine, vice president, Business Development, INAMAR Recreational Marine Insurance.
INAMAR’s Top 10 Recreational Boating Safety Tips
1. Always wear a life jacket and insist that your crew and guests do the same. Approximately 70 percent of all fatal boating accident victims drowned in 2003. Eighty-six percent of those who drowned were not wearing their personal flotation device (PFD) or life jacket. Make sure that children are wearing life jackets that fit correctly. Drowning was the reported cause of death for approximately 60 percent of the children who perished in 2003. Always have an adequate supply of personal flotation devices aboard.
2. Never drink alcohol while boating. In 2003, alcohol was involved in 31 percent of all boating fatalities. Stay sharp on the water by leaving the alcohol on dry land.
3. Take a boating safety course. Consistent with previous years, more than 80 percent of all reported boating fatalities in 2003 occurred on boats where the operator had not completed a boating safety course. You may even qualify for a reduced insurance rate if you complete a safety course. Contact your Coast Guard Auxiliary for information on courses in your area.
4. Stay in control by taking charge of your safety and that of your passengers. Adults between the ages of 40 and 49 accounted for highest rate of the total boating fatalities in 2003. Don’t forget that safety begins with you.
5. Understand and obey boating safety recommendations and navigational rules. Imagine the mayhem that would result if car drivers disregarded highway traffic laws. Know and understand boating safety procedures and rules of navigation before taking to the water, and practice them without fail.
6. Operate at a safe speed and always maintain a careful lookout. Overall, operator inattention, carelessness/reckless operation, operator inexperience and excess speed are leading contributing factors of all reported accidents. Know your boat’s limitations. Take note of visibility, traffic density and the proximity of navigation hazards like shoals, rocks or floating objects. Don’t invite a collision by going faster than is prudent.
7. Check the weather forecast. A calm day can turn ugly fast on the water. Stay on top of the forecast while boating and heed all weather and storm advisories. Check the condition of your life raft annually and before long distance off shore cruising. Carry flares at all times.
8. Have your vessel checked for safety–for free! The U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary offers Vessel Safety Checks at no cost. Coast Guard staffers will check your boat’s equipment and provide information about its use, safety procedures and applicable regulations. Unsafe boats are a threat to all recreational boaters. Make sure your vessel is as safe as possible. Visit the U.S. Coast Guard web site at www.uscg.mil for further information.
9. Use a carbon monoxide detector. All internal combustion engines emit carbon monoxide (CO), an odorless, colorless, poisonous gas that can kill in minutes. CO poisoning can be caused by using air conditioning powered by an outboard motor, operating a gas-powered engine while docked, rafting with other boats operating engines, or improper cabin ventilation. Carbon monoxide poisoning caused seven boating deaths in 2003.
10. File a float plan. The U.S. Coast Guard recommends that you always tell a friend or family member where you plan to go and when you’ll be back. Make it a habit before leaving on any boat trip. The proper officials can be notified promptly if you don’t return when expected.
According to Lafontaine, the more educated recreational boaters are about safety practices on the water, the better. Becoming a safety conscious boater can yield economic benefits as well. “Everyone who enjoys recreational boating should learn all that they can about safety procedures and navigational rules. Another important preparation is to have reliable and comprehensive insurance in place. Few people would drive a car without adequate insurance, yet countless recreational boaters take this risk,” he noted.
Boat owners may be unaware that liability insurance can provide important coverages, including medical, that extend to paid crew and passengers. They can protect themselves and their passengers by purchasing insurance that will cover medical care if their injuries are caused by an uninsured boat operator. Coverages that will pay for repairs if their boat is damaged in the water, on land, or during transport are also available. Boat owners can also insure against the loss of personal property and the costs of towing and emergency assistance.
To learn more about INAMAR and obtain information on a range of safety and loss prevention topics, visit www.INAMARmarine.com.
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