Our View: Play it safe when boating our waters

May 22, 2007 12:00 am

Sometime during the next 12 hours, someone in America will die due to a boating accident. Chances are the accident will be preventable.

With the warmer weather and start of the summer tourism season, the odds of boating deaths and accidents occurring in Del Norte County or off our shores is now increasing.

That's why we join several local and national organizations in encouraging boating safety. It's National Safe Boating Week, and for good reason: There are nearly 700 boating deaths a year, or about two a day.

Fortunately, we can control most of the factors that cause boating deaths and injuries. Very few of those accidents are due to unpredictable weather or hazardous waters. So if going boating, be sure to:

•Get a free vessel-safety check first – The examination verifies the presence and operable condition of safety equipment required on boats by state and federal law. The local Coast Guard typically offers such inspections.

•Wear a life preserver – Nearly two-thirds of all boat drownings involved a person not wearing one. The law requires life jackets be worn by children age 12 and under.

•Operate the boat cautiously – Carelessness and recklessness often leads to accidents. This applies to the behavior of passengers and water skiers as well.

•Remain attentive – Collisions often can be avoided if the boat operator is alert and aware of the surroundings.

•Avoid alcoholic beverages while boating – Alcohol lowers our ability to be cautious and to remain attentive.

•Ensure whoever is operating the boat knows how – As with driving cars, inexperienced operators have the most accidents. If learning how to boat, do so in calm waters with few other boats around.

•Slow down – Fast speeds limit the time boat operators and passengers have to react to dangers.

•Maintain machinery – System failures can leave boats stranded on the water, making boaters vulnerable to the elements or resulting in rash, unsafe decisions later.

Boating can be fun without horseplay or complacency about the equipment. Becoming a statistic certainly isn't worth a laugh or shrug.