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The most practical boating safety advice you’ll get this year: 3 tips for National Safe Boating Week

by Scott Croft 14 May 17:29 UTC 18-24 May 2019
More paddlers on the water means everyone needs to step up their safety this boating season © Scott Croft

Wearing a life jacket, avoiding alcohol, and taking a boating safety course tops the list of things you can do now to improve your chances of a long, safe summer of boating.

For this year's National Safe Boating Week (May 18-24) here's three timely safety tips from the BoatUS Foundation for Boating Safety and Clean Water.

    1. Be on the lookout for small craft: The U.S. Coast Guard reports that operator inattention and improper lookout are at the top of the list for contributing factors to accidents. Combined with the increasing popularity of paddlecraft such as kayaks and standup paddleboards, boaters should slow down in areas where paddlers congregate. Be mindful of your wake. Consider learning the S.C.A.N. (Search, Concentrate, Analyze, and Negotiate) method to help you safely navigate around paddlers and other traffic on the water. Accept and understand that some paddlers may not understand the rules of the road or all of the safety risks inherent to small-craft operation. Some boaters are guilty of this as well.

    2. Avoid ship traffic: With the U.S. economy strong, there may be more commercial ship traffic on coastlines, harbors, and rivers than we've seen in recent years. Ships can be deceptively fast, and recreational vessels attempting to cross in front of moving vessels can disappear under a ship's bow (video below) and out of the captain's line of sight, greatly decreasing safety for all aboard and potentially creating a very scary situation. For more information on safe boat operation around ships, go to BoatUS.org/RulesOfTheRoad.

    3. Beware of the spring season of rain: According to NOAA, nearly two-thirds of the lower 48 states face an elevated risk for flooding through May. Snowmelt and heavy rain have brought trees, flotsam and jetsam downstream where they can collide with boats and create additional safety challenges with the increased current. A boater's best bet is to slow down, watch your speed (especially running down current), keep an extra lookout, and hope the sun comes out soon!

The BoatUS Foundation for Boating Safety and Clean Water offers a range of online and on-water boating safety training courses including 36 free state courses that can be found at BoatUS.org/Courses.

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