If you're new to boating – or even if you're not – it's easy to make simple mistakes that may have severe consequences on the water. In fact, there are many things you should not do while out boating, such as:
1. Don't drink and boat
Never boat under the influence (BUI). It is illegal to operate a boat while under the influence of alcohol or drugs in every state. Alcohol use is the leading known contributing factor in fatal boating accidents. There are stringent penalties for violating BUI/BWI laws, including large fines, suspension or revocation of boat operator privileges, and jail terms.
2. Don't go boating without a life jacket
Accidents can leave even a strong swimmer injured, unconscious, or exhausted in the water. According to the U.S. Coast Guard, 80 percent of all fatal boating accident victims drowned. Of those, approximately 83 percent were not wearing a life jacket. Also, the U.S. Coast Guard requires boats to have a USCG-approved life jacket that is accessible, in good serviceable condition, and of an appropriate size for each person on board. All states require children to wear life jackets. Adult-sized life jackets don't work for children. Children need life jackets appropriate for their weight range, that fits snugly, and don't allow their chin or ears to slip through.
3. Don't go boating without the proper preparation
It's essential to know beforehand the boating laws in your state and to perform a pre-boarding boat safety check that includes:
• Check that you have a full tank of gas.
• After you refuel, open your hatches, and run the blower to sniff fumes.
• Ensure your operator's certificate or license and any registration or documentation for the boat are onboard and current.
• In addition to life jackets, check that you have other boating safety equipment onboard.
• Check the weather, watch for current storm and small craft advisories. The National Weather Service broadcasts marine weather forecasts regularly.
4. Don't overload the boat.
This is one of the most common causes of swamping, capsizing, and sinking, especially in small, open-constructed boats. Keep in mind your boat's maximum load capacity. On most monohull boats up to 20 feet in length, this information can be found on the capacity plate, permanently affixed to the hull. Contact your boat's manufacturer if a capacity plate isn't present and ask for capacity plate information. Always remember, the "maximum safe weight" includes people AND gear.
5. Don't go boating without having a signaling device to communicate an emergency
Boaters should have signal flares, whistles, horns, or signal mirrors, in addition to an emergency position-indicating radio beacon (EPIRB) to alert first responders to the location of a water emergency.