For your boating clients the Summer is boating season, so when you're writing new or renewal boat insurance policies, make sure you add to your value a safety tips sheet. At Sun Coast General Insurance we have a top ten list we'd like to share with your agency. Feel free to use these boating safety tips when marketing, selling, or renewing your valued boat insurance clients.
TOP 10 BOATING SAFETY TIPS
- Always wear a life jacket and insist that your guests do the same. It is estimated that 75% of boating fatalities in 2009 were the victim of drowning. (1) This is important because 84% of those who drowned were not wearing a personal flotation device (PFD) or life jacket. For children the fatality rate from drowning in a boating accident was 50% in 2009. Seven out of every 10 boaters who drowned were on vessels less than 21’ in. It is important to have an adequate supply of personal floatation devices abroad, and that children are wearing devices that fit correctly. In cold water areas, life jackets are even more important. A fall into water colder than 60 degrees (Fahrenheit) can induce “cold shock” – a sudden gasping for air that can increase the risk of drowning, especially in older people.
- Do not drink alcohol while boating. Alcohol is the leading factor in 16% of all boating accidents in 2009 and is considered the leading contributing factor in fatal boating accidents annually. You need to stay sharp on the water, so leave the alcohol on back on the dock. (1)
- Take a boating safety course - Operator errors accounts for 70% of boating accidents. Eighty-six percent of all reported boating fatalities in 2009 occurred on boats where the operator had not completed a boating safety course. (1) You may even qualify for a reduced insurance rate if you complete a safety course, so contact your local Coast Guard Auxiliary, U.S. Power Squadron chapter (2) or visit www.uscg.mil for more information on courses in your local area.
- Stay in control and take charge of your safety and that of your guests. Safety on your boat begins and ends with you. Boaters between the ages of 36 and 55 accounted for the highest rate of accidents, injuries and fatalities in 2009. (1) So be responsible, take the lead on your boat, set a good example, and keep your guests safe.
- Know and understand boating safety recommendations and navigational rules – and obey them. You do this on the road while driving your car, so you must do the same while boating. Know and understand boating safety procedures and rules of navigation before taking to the water, and practice them without fail. Just like the highway, it’s mayhem if we don’t obey the rules and safety recommendations.
- Operate your boat at a safe speed and safe distance and always maintain a careful lookout. Overall, operator inattention, operator inexperience, excess speed and improper lookout were the leading contributing factors in all reported accidents. (1) Know your boat’s limitations as well as your own. Take note of visibility, traffic density and the proximity of navigation hazards like shoals, rocks or floating objects. Don’t invite a collision by going faster than is prudent.
- Know the weather forecast before you hit the water. If there is a sudden weather change, a calm day can quickly turn ugly on the water. Keep an eye out for changing weather conditions and stay on top of the forecast while boating. Promptly heed all weather and storm advisories.
- Hypothermia is a significant risk factor for injury and even death. Cold water accelerates the onset and progression of hypothermia since body heat can be lost 25 times faster in cold water than in cold air. The closer you are to rescue support the better your chances are, therefore an Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon or Global Positioning System interfaced Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB/GPIRB), and/or a Personal Locator Beacon (PLB), is recommended especially when boating in waters that are below 59º. As a matter of fact, these safety devices should be considered when boating in waters of any temperature. Boaters can be at risk of hypothermia in warm waters, where expected time of survival can be as little as two hours in waters as warm as 60 – 70ºF.
- Have a carbon monoxide meter onboard. Carbon monoxide (CO) is odorless, tasteless, colorless, poisonous gas that can make you sick in seconds and kill in minutes, and all internal combustion motors emit CO. Just a few breaths in high enough concentrations can be fatal. CO symptoms are similar to seasickness or alcohol intoxication, and can affect you whether you are underway, moored or anchored. Remember, you cannot see, smell or taste CO so know the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning and avoid extended use of the transom area when engines are operating.
- File a float plan. The U.S. Coast Guard recommends that you always tell a friend or family member where you plan to go and when you’ll be back. Make it a habit before leaving on any boat trip. This way the proper officials can be notified promptly if you don’t return when expected, and an informed search can begin.
Don’t forget to have your vessel inspected for safety. This check can be done for free! The U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary and U.S. Power Squadron offer Vessel Safety Checks at no cost. Unsafe boats are a threat to all. And remember to make sure to carry USCG approved and current visual distress signals onboard.