As West Virginia residents look ahead to the summer boating season, now is a good time to review some basic safety tips and risks associated with this pastime. The National Safe Boating Council indicates that National Safe Boating Week runs from May 21 to May 27 this year, just in time for the Memorial Day holiday weekend.
Wearing a properly fitting life jacket is one of the best things that people can do to stay safe while on lakes, rivers or other waterways. Statistics from the United States Coast Guard indicate that 84 percent of all drowning fatalities in 2014 involved people who were not wearing life jackets. When getting life jackets out of storage after the winters, people should inspect them to ensure that they are in good shape and free of rips. Inflatable models should be able to hold air for at least 16 hours.
Refraining from drinking while boating is another very important way of staying safe on the water. An estimated 21 percent of all boating fatalities in 2014 were attributed to alcohol use. Alcohol was one of the top five factors in all boating accidents that year. The other four were high speeds, lack of experience or attention on the part of boat operators, and the lack of proper lookout from the boat. Mechanical problems were also noted as contributing factors in a large number of boating accidents.
Boat owners and passengers alike share the responsibility of ensuring that safe practices are followed. Taking appropriate precautions can go a long way toward preventing many potential serious and even fatal accidents.