With boating a popular way to take in the nation’s birthday, the National Safe Boating Council is encouraging people to stay safe this Fourth of July holiday with some safety tips.
Last year, the month of July had the highest incidents of fatal and non-fatal boating accidents nationwide. In Southern California, there were 116 injuries and 14 fatalities last year.
“Boating is incredibly safe, and simple safety things you can do can really make a positive difference,” said National Safe Boating Council Executive Director Rachel Johnson.
The following are things that can be done to help stay safe out on the water:
Don’t drink and boat
According to the U.S. Coast Guard, alcohol use is the leading known contributing factor in fatal boating accidents.
“I tell everyone to find a designated driver on the lake,” said Spring Valley Lake Association Assistant General Manager and Director of Public Safety Alfred Logan. “A BUI (boating under the influence) is looked as the same as DUI.”
Operating a boat or any watercraft while under the influence of alcohol or drugs is a criminal offense in the state of California. For a first offense BUI, the court can impose up six months in jail and $1,000 in fines.
Wear a life jacket
Drowning continues to be the reported cause of death contributing to more than three-fourths of recreational boating fatalities in 2016, and that 83 percent of those who drowned were not wearing life jackets.
“Our number one tip we always talk about is wearing a life jacket every time you go boating,” said Johnson. “We’re losing too many boaters every year because they aren’t wearing a life jacket.”
Scan the water for downed skiers
Improper lookout or the legal obligation for a boat operator to keep an ongoing watch of its path was the number one cause for injuries last year.
“Always pay attention. There’s a lot of people with different activities — wake boarding, skiing. Scan the area for downed skiers to be sure there’s no incident,” said Logan.
Broken bones, concussions, lacerations, hypothermia and scrapes were the most common injuries.
“Stay hydrated because there’s a thing called boater’s fatigue. Heat and the reflection of the water causes drowsiness and fatigue in the boater,” said Logan.
Boater’s fatigue can slow reaction times and make it harder to operate the boat. Taking frequent breaks off of the boat and drinking water can help minimize the effects.