Safe Boating in the Florida Panhandle

Memorial Day is right around the corner. Warm weather is already here and many are planning their weekends, which often include outdoor activities such as swimming and boating. The National Safe Boating Council has named the week of May 22 through May 28th as National Safe Boating Week for 2010. Their goal is to promote safe boating by conducting a series of on-going national campaigns. Their website has a variety of safe boating courses, details of their safe boating campaigns and other resources to assist anyone wanting to enjoy their time on the water and stay safe at the same time.

All too often, there are reports of boating accidents. In 80% of all fatal boating accidents, the cause of death is drowning. In 90% of those drownings, the person was not wearing a life vest. Even the best swimmer can get into trouble in rough waters especially if the accident results in an injury or if the person is knocked unconscious. Wearing a life vest will keep you afloat until help arrives or you're able to recover enough to swim to a nearby floating object.

Life vests (or jackets) have come a long way since the bulky over-the-head devices were designed. Life vests are designed with the size and weight of the person wearing it in mind. It's important to read the recommendation to be sure you and your family members are wearing the appropriate size and type of life vest. Putting a life vest on your child that is too large can result in them slipping out of it if tossed in the water unexpectedly.

Wearing one designed for a lighter weight may not keep you afloat when you need it to. Each are designed for a purpose; general purpose would be sufficient in a pool setting whereas you would want to be sure your child is wearing a life vest suitable for boating if you intend on spending the day on the ocean with the family.

Life vests range in price from relatively cheap to upwards of $50 or more, it all depends on the type of life vest and its intended purpose. This is not an area to skimp or be looking for bargains when you make your decision to buy one. If taken care of, this investment will last a long time and may be responsible in saving your life one day.

Common sense is also important in all water sports. Review the safety checklist:

  • Have you checked the weather forecast before planning the day on the water? It won't take long for an unexpected storm to ruin your trip and turn into a potentially dangerous situation.
  • Did you notify a family member or friend where you are launching your boat from or where you plan to be swimming and the approximate time of your return? If you have mechanical trouble with your boat or do not return when expected, your family can alert the coast guard and know where to begin looking for you.
  • Do you have a marine radio on your boat? The Navigation Center of Excellence provides marine radio information for boaters and other important tips. A VHF marine radio is the single most important radio system you should buy. If you plan to travel more than a few miles offshore, you should purchase a MF/HF radiotelephone or mobile satellite telephone, an emergency position indicating radio beacon (EPIRB).
  • Be sure your boat is in good mechanical condition. Always keep a basic tool kit on board for any quick fixes that may be required while away from land. Keep emergency flares on board and in a dry area.
  • Avoid drinking alcohol when involved in water activities. Alcohol consumption while boating, swimming or water skiing simply do not mix so don't do it! Alcohol will affect your response time as well as affect your decision making when involving what could be a dangerous activity.

Plan a family fun day on the water and take the necessary precautions to be sure everyone stays safe. Speak up if a family member or friend is creating an unsafe condition. Friends don't let friends drive, operate a boat or swim drunk. Be smart, think first and have fun this summer.

If you or a loved one has been injured, our Florida injury attorneys are here to help.

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