It is springtime! If you have not already done so, you are probably close to starting your boating season. You are already thinking about plans for raft ups with friends, trying out that new fishing spot or exploring some new waterways. Just don’t forget to think about safety, too.

Every year, the US Coast Guard releases statistics from the previous year for recreational boating. It details the top causes of boating accidents and boating deaths. In 2021, 81 percent of boating-related deaths were due to drowning. Of that 81 percent, 83 percent were not wearing a life jacket. In addition, 75 percent of deaths occurred on vessels where the operator had not taken a boating safety class.

Let’s look at some of the top causes for boating accidents and deaths in 2021 to see what can be done to avoid becoming a statistic:

  1. Operator Inattention: The vessel operator was either not paying attention or was distracted by something other than operation of the vessel.

What You Can Do: Remember that operating a boat requires just as much if not more attention as operating a car. It is common for passengers to be celebrating and having fun while the boat is underway. It is a good idea to let your passengers know that they need to refrain from distracting behavior.

  1. Operator Inexperience: Many new operators expect a boat to handle like a car. It just does not work that way. They steer differently. They are affected by wind and current. They have no brakes. Additionally, inexperienced operators most likely do not know what to do in emergency situations or when something unexpected happens.

What You Can Do: Take a boating safety class. America’s Boating Club (formerly US Power Squadron) and the Coast Guard Auxiliary both offer boating safety classes to the public.

  1. Machinery Failure: Something failed on the vessel. Maybe it was the engine, the steering or something else vital. Unlike a car, if a boat becomes disabled, it does not sit in one place. Wind and current could potentially cause your boat to drift into dangerous areas or large waves hitting the vessel broadside could potentially capsize it.

What You Can Do: Maintain your vessel properly. Also, the more you learn about how your vessel works, the more options you will have available to deal with mechanical failures. Always carry a proper anchor and rope so that you can prevent the vessel from drifting into dangerous areas if it becomes disabled.

  1. Excessive Speed: The vessel is moving too fast for safe conditions.

What You Can Do: Operate the vessel at speeds that are appropriate, especially for your skill level and conditions. Reduce speed at night, in rough weather and in high traffic situations.

While you are at it, don’t forget to check those life jackets. Make sure they are in good shape and ready to go.

Have a safe and fun boating season.