5 Tips for Safe Family Boating

Boating on LakeIt’s Michigan Boating week! And that means families everywhere in the Great Lakes State are starting to hit the water as the weather heats up. While being out on the water together is a favorite summer pastime for Michigan families, it’s important to remember that when you mix kids and boats, safety becomes even more important. So while you’re spending some time on the waves, follow these tips to keep your boating experience safe and problem free:

1. Life jackets on everybody

Children usually protest less about wearing their life jackets if they see the adults wearing them as well. And if older boaters have concerns about comfort, people over the age of 16 have the option of choosing the new Coast Guard-approved auto-inflating vests. These are more comfortable because they sit close to the body, and they only inflate if you pull the ripcord. And they may be an easier sell for more fashion conscious teenagers.

2. Bring a child-comfort kit

Your boat should already carry a first-aid kit, but there are some extra items you’ll want to bring along for your children’s safety and comfort. Sunscreen and sunhats are important, but you may also want to bring an over-the-counter seasickness remedy or chewable antihistamines. Bringing a set of dry clothing and some familiar music or comforting toys may be helpful for younger children if nap time beckons. Younger children can get worn out boating all day; avoid a meltdown at sea and be prepared with items that help comfort your child. Helping an overly-tired child have a nap may be a simple way to avoid accidents.

3. Check the weather forecast

If you’re planning to be out in open water, especially large lakes, weather is a serious factor that has to be taken into account. Besides simply ruining a beautiful excursion, bad weather can pose many safety risks. Wind is the most common danger, but electrical storms can pose serious risks to smaller boats that aren’t constructed with a lightning protection system in place. Too much sun can present a safety problem as well, so it’s crucial that you ensure that all passengers have access to shade and that there is plenty of fresh drinking water on board.

4. Skip the alcohol

Boats are vehicles, and over one-third of boating accidents result from a driver who is under the influence of alcohol. Drinking may even create greater risks for boat operators than it does for automobile drivers since the stresses of sun, vibration, engine noise, motion and spray intensify the effects of alcohol. Furthermore, most recreational boaters are relatively inexperienced, since they haven’t spent many hours operating the boat and thus have fewer driving reflexes. Every state has criminal statutes forbidding boating while under the influence (BUI), and if you do get into an accident, you may be subject to stiff fines or criminal charges. You wouldn’t drink and drive, so why would you drink and boat?

5. Fuel and exhaust safety

Before you start out, double-check your fuel gauge to make sure you have plenty of gasoline; nothing ruins a day on the lake like having to call for a tow! Also, if your boat has indoor areas, it’s important to make sure that all exhaust is properly vented. Boat engines produce carbon monoxide, and small enclosed cabins are not safe places for operating propane heaters or camp stoves.

Practicing responsible boating is the best way to keep your loved ones safe on the water, as well as avoiding boat damage and liability. Even with the best of intentions, however, we know accidents may happen. Call us today at 616-897-1515 for more information about your boating coverage or with questions about insuring yourself and your boat today!

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