MANHATTAN — The Fourth of July is around the corner and it is important to remember boating regulations and precautions before heading out on the water, says Sid Stevenson, Kansas State University associate professor of recreation resources.
Before getting on any boat, Stevenson recommends making sure personal flotation devices, or PFDs, and lifejackets are in good working condition and fit each passenger properly. It is the law that every passenger in the boat needs to have a personal flotation device easily accessible onboard.
“Children 12 and under need to always wear their life jackets, and everyone in the boat should wear one, especially at high speeds or in rough conditions,” said Stevenson, who is a U.S. Coast Guard-certified boat captain and teaches several boat safety courses at Kansas State University.
Boat operators should realize that passengers can be injured easily and even thrown from the boat during abrupt maneuvers, Stevenson said. Passengers should make sure they are properly seated and aware of what the captain is about to do.
“Keep an eye on the weather and recruit one or more passengers to constantly be on the lookout for hidden hazards and other users,” Stevenson said. “We’ve found submerged trees floating in the middle of the lake before.”
Occasionally with holiday celebrations comes alcohol consumption. Stevenson said people should remember that consuming alcohol while operating a boat is even worse than driving a vehicle because of environmental forces such as the wind and the waves.
“You lose a little bit of your coordination and you obviously lose a little bit of judgment and decision-making when drinking, and those are crucial factors when you are operating on the water,” Stevenson said. “You can get a boating under the influence citation, just as you can get a DUI while driving.”
According to the 2016 Recreational Boating Statistics from the U.S. Coast Guard, there were 282 accidents, 264 injuries and 87 deaths while boating where the primary contributing factor was alcohol use.
One of the biggest safety tips to remember is to be courteous of others. Keep a safe distance, watch your wake and make sure your boat is loaded and ready before you get on the boat ramp, Stevenson said. It is important to be extra careful and remember the water is going to be crowded with everyone else wanting to enjoy the holiday.
“A good rule of thumb is to treat other people on the water as you’d like to be treated,” Stevenson said.
For more information on boating safety, contact your local fire department or consider taking a boating education course. Courses are available online and often are provided in person by local Coast Guard auxiliaries and state departments of wildlife, parks and tourism. Visit ksoutdoors.com/Boating/Boating-Education for more information on Kansas boating safety.