For many, the arrival of Memorial Day means it's time to pull out the boats, jet skis and canoes for fun days on the water.
But boating activities can turn deadly in a second if those operating the vessels don't pay attention to boating safety and make sure all their passengers do too.
Each year, about 74 million Americans take part in recreational boating, according to National Safety Council. Most boating experiences are perfectly fine, with everyone involved having a great time. But days on the water can quickly turn deadly if boaters are not vigilant about safety.
According to the U.S. Coast Guard, one of three things usually happens when a good day turns tragic:
- A passenger falls overboard
- A boat capsizes
- A boat collides with another boat or object
But taking just a few steps can prevent one of the three things from happening, Coast Guard officials said.
Most importantly is wearing a life jacket, including all adults. The U.S. Coast Guard reports 78 percent of boating deaths in 2014 were due to drowning, and 84 percent of the victims were not wearing a life jacket.
Other safety tips include:
- Have an emergency bag with first aid kit, fog horn, fire extinguisher, etc.
- If you notice storm clouds, sudden temperature drop or increasing wind speed, head for shore.
- Don't drink: Alcohol affects judgment, vision, balance and coordination.
- Take a safety course: 7 out of 10 boating accidents are caused by operator error (required in New York for all boating operators).
- Know about carbon monoxide, the poisonous gas is emitted by all combustion engines and onboard motor generators.
- Know all the safety measures needed when you have a skier, wakeboarder or someone tubing behind a boat. That includes always have a spotter in the boat, and go over basic hand signals. Only water ski and wakeboard during daylight hours.
- Make sure all passengers know where the boat's propellers are located.
- Never go swimming or diving alone.
- Always let someone know where you are headed.
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