NOAA's Safe Boating Tips

posted Jul 31, 2012, 8:06 AM by G W Black

With boating season already under way, NOAA and the National Safe Boating Council are asking boaters, sailors and water enthusiasts to remember important boating facts and safety tips when heading out on the water. Your life could depend on them!

 

Did you know that:

  • In 2011, 758 people died in 4,588 boating accidents. Seventy percent of all fatal boating accident victims drowned. Of those, 84 percent were reported as not wearing a life jacket.
  • Oceans cover roughly 72 percent of the Earth’s surface. Yet, the majority of boating deaths occur on lakes and rivers — even though they comprise less than one percent of the Earth’s surface. In 2011, 600 people died in lakes and rivers.  In contrast, 21 people died at sea. 
  • Only 11 percent of people died on boats where the operator had received boating safety training.  Knowing how to properly operate a boat is critical.
  • Alcohol use is the leading contributing factor in fatal boat accidents. Alcohol was deemed a primary factor in 16 percent of deaths in 2011. 
  • Adverse weather can play a major role in boating accidents.  In 2011, 54 people died and 114 were injured in 235 accidents where the weather was a primary factor. 
  • Rough seas and strong winds can certainly lead to boating accidents and deaths, but the majority of those occur in calm seas and light wind. Twenty-five people died in 2011 when winds were greater than 25 mph; 352 people died when winds ranged between 0 and 6 mph.
  • In 70- to 80-degree F water, it can take only a few hours to exhibit signs of hypothermia, such as such as exhaustion, slurred speech or unconsciousness. Alcohol consumption also increases your risk of hypothermia, which can be fatal. Don’t be fooled into thinking you’ll be okay if you’re thrown overboard into warmer waters.

So, before you go out on the water:

  • Know your risk: Be familiar with the body of water you want to boat in. Learn the rules of boating by taking a safe boating course. Download the nautical charts you’ll need for your excursion. Check the marine weather forecast before going out on the water; weather can change quickly, so plan for all types of weather hazards. 
  • Be prepared: Make sure your vessel has the required equipment such as life jackets, a first aid kit and an emergency beacon. Develop an emergency plan that includes more than one way to get your boat out of trouble. Create a float plan, and tell a friend or family member when and where you’ll be boating— including the day and time you will return. Buy a NOAA Weather Radio and pay close attention to marine watches, warnings and advisories.
  • Be an example: Share safe boating tips with your friends, family, co-workers and your social media network. Remind everyone of the importance of wearing a life jacket and taking a safe boating course. The information you share might just save lives.

To learn more, visit the National Safe Boating Council and National Weather Service Marine Forecasts web pages.