Anthony and Christina Shields of Morgantown try to get on Cheat Lake at least once a week on his parents’ pontoon. Their kids Lucy and Anthony don life jackets and Anthony, who has been driving boats for about 14 years, makes sure to be very aware of his surroundings as they navigate their way around the lake.
“There are no lanes, so you have to constantly be looking behind you to see if a boat is coming too fast or coming your way,” Anthony said. “I feel like a lot of kids are driving who don’t always pay attention.”
He especially notices when someone is zipping back and forth on the water, perhaps if a skier or a tuber is being pulled by a boat whose driver wants to take them through the wake.
“I haven’t seen any wrecks, but I’ve seen a few close calls.”
According to the National Safe Boating Council, 80 percent of deaths related to boating accidents are from drowning. Eighty-three percent of the drowning victims are not wearing a life jacket and two-thirds of those who drowned were good swimmers.
That’s why life jackets are a key element to keeping safe while boating. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention refers to tips offered by the U.S. Coast Guard, which notes that properly-fitted life jackets can prevent drowning and should be worn by everybody on the boat at all times. And don’t let style be a deterrent: Coast Guard-approved life jackets are now better looking and more comfortable.
Other tips from the U.S. Coast Guard include:
- Don't Drink. Alcohol use affects judgment, vision, balance and coordination. Reports suggest that alcohol is a contributing factor in about 1 in 5 boating fatalities.
- Take a Course. People operating boats can help keep their passengers safe. Boating education courses teach the regulatory and statutory rules for safe operation and navigation of recreational boats.
- Get a Vessel Safety Check. The Vessel Safety Check (VSC) is a free public service provided by the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary and U.S. Power Squadron volunteer organizations. For more information on the VSC Program, visit the website.
- Know about carbon monoxide (CO). All internal combustion engines, such as boat engines and onboard motor generators, emit CO, an odorless, colorless and poisonous gas. In the early stages of carbon monoxide poisoning, the symptoms are similar to seasickness. However, CO can kill in a matter of minutes. To avoid CO poisoning, be aware of the risk, ensure sufficient ventilation, properly install and maintain equipment, and use CO detectors, especially in living and sleeping areas.
If you want to encourage others to wear life jackets while boating, a Safe Boating Campaign called Ready, Set, Wear It will be held this Saturday, June 9, as well as on July 7 and Aug. 11. To participate, perform a safe boating activity such as gathering as many life jacket-wearing boaters as possible and posting a pic on social media. Remember to use the hashtag #RSWI2018.
To sweeten the pot, the event with the most participants on each event day will receive a prize. A worldwide tally will be taken at the end of the summer and the event with the most participants will receive a grand prize.
So, grab your safe-boating friends and make a friendly challenge to others that your Ready, Set, Wear It event will be the biggest and best. And happy boating!