Summer Safety: Maximize Fun, Minimize Risks
With nearly 12 million recreational vessels and 1.2 million ATVs in the U.S., Americans clearly enjoy summertime recreation. In 2021, the U.S. Coast Guard reported 4,439 boating incidents that resulted in 658 deaths, 2,641 injuries, and about $67.5 million in property damage. And the Consumer Product and Safety Commission says there were at least 15,744 ATV-related fatalities between 1982 and 2018. Of these, 3,353 were children younger than 16, accounting for about one in five deaths. Whether you’re an experienced owner or a novice, it is well worth taking a minute to review the risks that come with these popular outdoor activities.
Whether operating a personal watercraft or being towed behind, make the most of the season with these common-sense safety tips.
- Take a course – When you consider that operator inexperience is one of the top five reasons for boat crashes, it makes sense to get educated and be prepared. The U.S. Coast Guard has compiled a list of courses.
- Get a checkup – The Coast Guard also offers Vessel Safety Checks for free! Download the boating safety mobile app to request a vessel check and more.
- Have suitable life jackets – A life jacket designed for canoeing is not sufficient for jet skiing, so have the appropriate life jackets for the activity you’re planning.
- Plan – Only boat during fair weather conditions and avoid excursions in lowlight or after dark. Pass a detailed float plan along to someone you know, with a plan to alert authorities if something goes wrong. Driving distracted can be fatal. Avoid eating, drinking, adjusting the radio, attending to a text, or doing anything that might take your eyes off the road.
- Avoid alcohol – You booze, you lose. The Safe Boating Council reports that alcohol is the leading factor in fatal boating accidents. It’s best to avoid it for all outdoor activities involving a recreational vessel.
When jet skiing:
- Keep the safety lanyard close – Use the ignition safety switch that cuts power to the engine if you fall off. Hook the lanyard to your life jacket or keep it around your wrist at all times.
- Wear your life jacket – Concussions and head trauma are common injuries involving jet skis. Your life jacket will keep you afloat in the event of an accident.
- Follow proper boating etiquette – Avoid sharp turns near another vessel, jumping, following a boat too closely, or chasing other watercraft, as these maneuvers are illegal in almost every jurisdiction in the U.S.
- Be on the lookout – Choppy, high-use water can mask downed skiers, swimmers, and small boats.
- Learn how to stop – Aside from taking a safety course, at the very least, learn how long it takes to stop as it takes longer for a personal watercraft to come to a complete stop.
- Inspect your ATV – An inspection can minimize the chance of being injured or stranded. Download the ATV Safety Institute’s pre-ride inspection checklist.
- Wear the right gear – Always have goggles, long sleeves and pants, over-the-ankle boots, gloves, and a DOT-compliant helmet.
- Ride safely – Drive only during daylight, on designated trails, and at a safe speed.
- Avoid paved roads – ATVs are classified as off-highway vehicles; avoid driving on paved roads except to cross.
- Choose the right fit – ATVs are not one-size-fits-all. Choose one that’s right for your height, skill level, and capabilities.