I make my living as a full time Ft Lauderdale fishing charters captain, so boating safety is of utmost importance to me. My clients hire me to ‘put them on the fish’, but when they are on the Reel Work, there safety and well being is my first priority. This should be the same for the operator of any vessel that navigates our waters… but unfortunately it is not. According to US Coast Guard statistics, there were 2,583 boating accidents caused by improper operation of a vessel in the U.S. in 2010. This number is way to high so I would like to share with you some pointers put out by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission on ways to stay safe on the water this holiday weekend and through out the year.
- Pay Attention. This was the number one cause of boating accidents in the U.S. in 2010 according to the USCG. There were 759 accidents resulting in 49 deaths and 457 injuries. Most boating accidents occur because the operator is not paying attention. When operating a vessel, people need to focus their attention on what’s going on in front, behind and on either side of their boat.
- Wear A Life Jacket. It doesn’t matter if you are a good swimmer. If you are in a boating accident that throws you into the water, you may be instantly injured or rendered unconscious.
- Stay Sober. According to USCG statistics, drug and alcohol use was a contributing factor in 336 accidents,causing 129 deaths and 296 injuries. Being in command of a vessel is very serious and demands one’s full attention. Operating a boat under the influence of alcohol or drugs can impair judgment and reaction time.
- Don’t Take Your Maiden Voyage On A Busy Holiday Weekend. Pay attention. Most boating accidents occur because the operator is not paying attention. When operating a vessel, people need to focus their attention on what’s going on in front, behind and on either side of their boat.
- Check The Weather Forecast. Bad weather can pop up quickly. It doesn’t make sense to be on the water, knowing the weather forecast is calling for storms.
- Carry A Charged Cell Phone. Anything can happen, so having a phone makes sense. You can also let folks at home know if you are going to be later than anticipated.
- File A Float Plan. That just means let someone on land know where you are going and when you plan to return. If you’re late returning from your trip, that person can notify officials, who will have a place to start looking for you.
- Know The Rules Before You Get On The Water. Rules of the road infractions caused 211 accidents with 16 deaths and 202 injuries in 2010. Boating has rules, just like driving. Do you know what side of the channel you should drive on? Who has the right of way? Do you need a boater safety card? You can learn the rules and more at MyFWC.com/Boating.