As we approach the summer months, our beaches and waters will get more crowded, so boat operators need to be extra cautious while operating a boat.
Most boating accidents happen because of boat operator error, not because of mechanical problems, environmental factors or equipment malfunctions. Additionally, 80 percent of boating deaths involve boats with an operator who had never taken a course in boater education or safety.
Local and state safety regulations have been established, and they must be followed by all boat owners and operators:
- The boat needs to be in good working condition.
- The boat must be titled and/or registered.
- The registration number, hull identification number and the registration decal must all be properly displayed.
- For each person on the boat, there must be at least one Personal Flotation Device (PFD) that's in good condition.
- If children are on board, be sure a PFD is available for each child and it fits properly.
- PFDs must be easily accessible and not locked in a compartment.
- At least one fire extinguisher must be on board and readily available.
- The boat must have working navigation lights.
- A copy of the Department of Homeland Security/United States Coast Guard Navigational Rules and Regulations Handbook must be on board.
- The boat must be equipped with a sound-producing device or bell.
- The deck must be free of hazards and bilge must be clean.
While the above list is the minimal requirements, there are other important tips boat operators should follow:
- Take a boating safety course.
- Get a vessel safety check.
- Keep a marine radio and a well-stocked first-aid kit on board.
- Maintain a safe speed.
- Obey the National Rules and Regulation Handbook.
- Do not drink while operating a boat. Have a "designated boat operator."
- Wear a PFD at all times.
Check out more boating safety tips from Miami-Dade Fire Rescue.
To learn about vessel safety checks and online boating education courses, visit http://www.uscgboating.org/.