National Safe Boating Week

By JAMES CUMMINS,

COVID-19 is forcing everyone to navigate uncharted waters, including boaters. For the annual celebration of National Safe Boating Week, held May 16-22, 2020, the National Safe Boating Council recommends boaters follow local guidance for social distancing and outdoor recreation.

To enhance the boating experience and educate the public regarding boat safety, the National Safe Boating Council (NSBC) was organized in September 1958, and currently has a membership of over 330 organizations, all with an interest in boating safety and education.

With the warm weather, everyone is ready to get out and enjoy the sunshine and have some fun on Mississippi’s hundreds of thousands of acres and miles of water. Just remember to be safe. Always wear sunscreen, protective clothing, and stay hydrated.

When going out on the water in a boat, there are safety rules. First and foremost, be sure everyone on board has a properly fitting life jacket and they wear it! Do not put an adult size life jacket on a child because it can easily slip off. An accident can happen unexpectedly and very quickly. According to the most recent U.S. Coast Guard statistics, nearly three-fourths of fatal boating accident victims drown. Out of those who drowned, 84 percent were not wearing a life jacket.

In case of an emergency, you need to communicate with someone details of your outing–who is on the boat, where you will be, and how long you plan to be gone.

Be aware of the current and forecasted weather for your outing. Water conducts electricity, so it is important not to be boating during an approaching storm.

Never operate a boat while or after drinking alcohol. You are not only putting yourself in danger, but also everyone else in your boat and on the water. Alcohol will limit your judgment of distance and decision making. Operating a boat under the influence of alcohol is illegal in all 50 states and is a violation of Federal law.

All boat engines produce carbon monoxide (CO)–an odorless, colorless, poisonous gas that can kill you in a matter of minutes. You do not have to be inside the boat to be at risk. Many have died from exposure on the swim platforms of boats and in other areas where CO exhaust may accumulate or be emitted. Be aware of the early symptoms (irritated eyes, headache, nausea, weakness, and dizziness).

Knowing the nautical rules of the water is important when crossing, meeting, or overtaking another boat.

Last, but not least, take a safe boating course. The primary contributing factors in accidents are attributed to operator factors–such as failure to pay attention, carelessness, excessive speed, inexperience, recklessness, and failure to watch for hazards. Boating safety courses are available, inexpensive and quick–a great way for you to learn safety and the rules on the water.

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James L. Cummins is executive director of Wildlife Mississippi, a non-profit, conservation organization founded to conserve, restore, and enhance fish, wildlife, and plant resources throughout Mississippi. Their website is www.wildlifemiss.org.