St. Augustine

On a Boat

Boating Safety 101 for Your Florida Vacation

A trip to Florida is an invitation to get out on the many lakes and rivers or to cruise the expansive coast. Boats can be a lot of fun, but it is important to remember that they can be dangerous to inexperienced people or when they’re misused. By understanding basic safety, you can ensure a fun and secure time for all the next time you visit Florida.

Don’t Drive the Boat if You Don’t Know How

Many people, especially those who don’t typically live around areas where boating is common, have never driven a boat. Despite this, some think it is fine to operate one. Even for an experienced road vehicle driver, this can be a very dangerous proposition due to the differences between road and water vehicles. If you have not driven a boat, it is recommended that you take a safety course first. For operating a boat in Florida, this may even be a requirement depending on your age and other factors. Also, keep in mind that the driver should be knowledgeable about how to dock and anchor the boat and how to maneuver the boat in close quarters, not just open water.

Beware of Alcohol

We all know the dangers of being drunk behind the wheel of a car, but being drunk behind the wheel of a boat is no different and just as dangerous. One of the biggest causes of boating accidents is operating under the influence. What makes it even more dangerous is the fact that you are on the water, which throws a risk of drowning into the standard dangers of an accident. Drinking alcohol while boating is common, so always ensure a designated, experienced driver is available for your boat.

Life Jackets Are Essential

Even a strong swimmer can be incapacitated or overwhelmed in the event of a boating accident or falling or being knocked into the water. Life jackets should always be quickly available and within reach. For inexperienced swimmers and youth, the life jacket should always be worn. Most rental boats will come with life jackets, but before you go out on the water, you should ensure they are appropriate to the boaters in terms of size, fit and number, especially for children.

Other Considerations

While driver experience, alcohol, and life jackets are the main considerations for safe boating, they are not the only factors. Before you head out, you will want to check the weather for potential storms, which can cause rough waters and bring lightning, which is a significant danger out on the water. Make sure your boat carries a first aid kit, flashlight, whistles, and a fire extinguisher or bring your own. Check online or with your rental company regarding laws specific to Florida, which may be different from the laws in your home state. Lastly, make sure your boat is not overloaded or overcrowded.

Boating done right can be an enjoyable way to spend your vacation. It opens up a new world of swimming, fishing and cruising possibilities. As with any motor vehicles, boats can be dangerous when misused. Using common sense, following laws and regulations and practicing basic safety will go a long way toward minimizing risk and maximizing the fun of your next Florida vacation.

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