Before you hit the water, read these 6 watercraft safety tips

By Higginbotham on May 30 , 2018

Watercraft safety

Summer is a great time to enjoy recreational watercraft – but an injury or accident can spoil the good times in an instant. According to the U.S. Coast Guard’s 2016 Recreational Boating Statistics Report, 1,081 of the 4,463 accidents reported in 2016 happened in the month of July. Compare this to December, when only 75 accidents were reported.

Before you take to the water this summer, review these safety tips.

Focus on Education

If you’re operating a boat, you need to take boating safety instruction.  According to the U.S. Coast Guard’s report, 77 percent of boating fatalities happened on boats where the operated had not received boating safety instruction, while only 13 percent of fatalities happened on vessels where the operator had a nationally approved boating safety certificate. Finding a class is easy. You can even complete some online. To get started, check out this list of boating safety courses.  

Use Life Jackets 

They’re called life jackets for a reason: they can save your life. According to the U.S. Coast Guard’s report, most boating fatalities – 80 percent of them – were drownings, and most people who drowned – 83 percent of them – were not wearing a life jacket.

You need to have a life jacket for every person, and state law often requires children to wear a life jacket. However, it’s recommended that everyone – even adults – wear a life jacket. Pick one that’s comfortable so you won’t be tempted to take it off.

Avoid the Primary Causes of Accidents

In 2016, the five primary contributing factors of accidents were the following:

  • Operator inattention
  • Operator inexperience
  • Improper lookout
  • Excessive speed
  • Machinery failure

These causes are preventable. Before taking control of a vessel, operators should get hands-on boating experience and take a safety course. Vessels must be properly maintained. While on the water, operators should stay aware of their surroundings and avoid speeding.

Operators should also avoid alcohol. You know it’s dangerous to drink and drive, so it should be no surprise that it’s also dangerous to drink while boating. Alcohol is the most common contributing factor in boating accident fatalities. In 2016, it was listed as the leading factor in 15 percent of fatalities.

Follow Your State Laws

State laws often include additional requirements for life jackets, alcohol use, accident reporting and more. There may also be requirements for insurance, certification, licensing and registration. Make sure you know the laws in your state. In Texas, you can learn more about boating laws at the Texas Parks & Wildlife website.

Report Accidents

Under federal law, you must report accidents involving recreational watercraft using a Boating Accident Report (BAR) if:

  • Property damage exceeds $2,000
  • Complete loss of a vessel occurs
  • Someone needs medical treatment beyond first aid
  • Someone disappears
  • Someone dies

Additional reports may be required by your state or insurance company.

Insure Your Watercraft

Some states require personal boats to be insured. Insurance may also be required by a lender or marina. Regardless of whether you are required to purchase insurance, getting it is smart. Otherwise, you could be on the hook for property damage and expensive medical bills.

Although your homeowners insurance policy may provide limited coverage for small watercraft, separate policies are often recommended. Need a watercraft insurance quote? Higginbotham Insurance can help.


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