Boat safety includes having all the proper equipment and observing all rules.
For anyone who spends any time on or in the water, boat safety is an issue of life-or-death importance. Every year, thousands of people are hurt or injured in boating accidents that could have been prevented with education on, and compliance with the rules.
According to the U.S. Coast Guard Boating Safety Division, Recreational Boating Statistics 2007 there were 685 fatal boating accidents in 2007, the most recent year for which statistics are available. The Coast Guards Boat Responsibly Initiative indicates that there also were 3,673 injuries that year, and that nine out of 10 drowning victims did not have life jackets on when the accident occurred.
In addition, the statistics show, only about 15 percent of the fatal boating accidents took place on boats in which the driver had completed formal instruction in boating safety.
The guidelines promoted by the Coast Guard are easy to remember and critical to implement. They include reminders to: take a boating safety course; take advantage of opportunities to receive a free vessel safety check; always wear a life jacket; and never operate a boat under the influence of alcohol or other controlled substances. The Coast Guards web site also contains links to several sources with key information on federal boating laws and regulations, state boating laws, navigation rules, the federal register and a boat-builder's handbook.
The Coast Guard is, not surprisingly, also the best place to find comprehensive information on numerous boat safety courses. Its offerings include, among others, Boat-Ed.com, a site that provides direct links to each of the states respective boat safety courses, along with links to boat safety courses offered online and on video; BoaterExam.com, a site that offers boating safety exams for boaters throughout the United States and Canada; and the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, which provides links that take users directly to information on boating safety classes in their immediate areas.
Teaching children about boating safety is important, too. Not only will knowledge of safe boating practices help prevent injuries in the short term, it will also instill at a young age a basic understanding of rules that will stay with the children throughout their lives. And in most states, the law requires boating safety courses for those aged 12 or older who will be operating a boat.
One resource for younger-child information is the children's page of BoatSafe.com, which contains a fun Q&A that covers everything from which equipment to have on board and why life jackets are necessary at all times to why the bathroom on a boat is called the head. In addition, the National Safe Boating Council provides fun activities for children such as the contest, "I'm a Safe Boater, Are You?" and additional boat safety information presented in a kid-friendly manner.
The American Red Cross, Boating Safety On Board Program provides a colorful Summer Safety Water Guide that provides even more safety information. Older children can access the same boaters safety information as adults on the Coast Guard and related sites.