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With thousands of deaths and tens of thousands of injuries on the water each year, boating safety is a primary concern. Many jurisdictions have laws regulating some safety aspects, such as life vests, lights, and fire extinguishers. These boating safety requirements generally differ based on the type of vessel and its use. However, each boater is required to know the regulations or face punitive consequences.
Regarding onboard boating safety, a number of different things may be required. For example, a life-saving flotation device, often referred to as a life vest, is often mandated. While it may not have to be worn, especially by adults, there usually must be one life vest per passenger. A fire extinguisher may also be required, depending on the size and function of the vessel. Regulations, for example, may be different for private vessels and commercial vessels.
Life vests are one of the keys to boating safety and water safety in general. The number of drownings are dramatically reduced by at least a factor of 10 when life vests are used. Even if adults are not required to wear a life vest, it is a good idea. In some jurisdictions, minors will always be required to wear a life vest when on the water.
Recreational boating safety is one of the key factors of water safety. In many cases, the requirements of the law to operate a boat are much less than that required to operate a motor vehicle. In many cases, there is no minimum age to operate a boat.
Recreational boaters do pose some hazards on the water. For example, more than 1,000 collisions between vessels take place each year, just in the United States alone. More than 500 accidents happen as the result of a collision with a fixed object, such as a boat. Deaths from these accidents run into the thousands.
For those who may be new boat owners, boating safety courses are recommended. In some jurisdictions, they may even be required. These courses familiarize new boat owners with many different rules and regulations regarding boating safety. Most will give some overview of maritime law and Coast Guard procedures, including how to contact the Coast Guard by radio. However, for those areas which are landlocked, the Coast Guard information may be omitted.
For those who wish to use a boat as a party vehicle, it should be noted that many of the same laws apply to boats as apply to land vehicles. For example, it is often illegal to have an open container and especially illegal to drive under the influence of alcohol. In many states, there is no difference between operating a vehicle or a boat under the influence of a substance such as drugs or alcohol.
I think the most important part about boating safety is for boaters to realize the potential for danger on the water. Many people think of boating as a recreational, fun activity, and fail to think of boating safety rules and equipment. If you are a boater, take a boating safety course and share what you learn with your passengers before getting out on the water.