Life Jackets Save Lives…but only if you wear them. Newer options such as inflatable vests and belt packs make wearing a life jacket much cooler and less cumbersome – you can almost forget you have it on. It’s important to note that children under the age of 16 are prohibited from wearing inflatable life jackets and children under 13 are required by law to wear a life jacket at all times when the boat is under way. Adults should wear them both for safety and to set a good example.
Designate a Sober Skipper: Boat operators need to be clear-headed and able to make quick decisions while on the water. Drinking alcohol or taking drugs—even some over-the-counter or prescription medicines—decreases reaction time and the ability to think clearly. Just as you would in a car, pick a Designated Driver who will take the wheel while you are having fun on the water.
Perform a VHF Radio Check: While many boaters rely on cell phones, they can be unreliable on the water where coverage is often spotty. Your VHF radio is not just a backup; it’s one of the most important pieces of equipment on your boat. Before heading out, request a radio check to make sure your VHF is working properly. In many popular boating areas, you can do this for free via the Sea Tow Automated Radio Check service. Simply tune to the appropriate VHF channel (it varies by area), key the mic and request a radio check. To find the VHF channel for your area, visit www.seatow.com/arc.
Ask for a Vessel Safety Check: The U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary and the U.S. Power Squadrons both offer free Vessel Safety Checks to get boaters ready for the season. They’ll help make sure you are carrying all the safety equipment you need onboard, from an anchor to a fire extinguisher, so your boat is safe and legal on the water.
It Pays to Take a Boating Safety Course. These fun and informative classes offer something for everyone, even if you’re an experienced boater. Plus, boaters who complete a course may be eligible for a discount on their boat owner’s insurance. The U.S. Power Squadrons offers classroom courses throughout the country or you can take an online course at www.BoaterExam.com. To find other courses approved for your state, check with your local boating law enforcement agency.