Boating is a hobby for millions across the United States. Whether you live on the coast, vacation at the beach, or live near a lake, boating is a fun activity. Who can blame you for wanting to share your joy with others in your family, including children? Unless your child was born on the water or you live on a houseboat, few young children are accustomed to being on the water. Although boating is an enjoyable way to go fishing, sailing, or just enjoy the atmosphere and animal life in a lake, it can be dangerous if you are not mindful of some safety rules. According to the U.S. Coast Guard, 22 children under the age of 13 died in boating accidents in 2015.Safety Tips for Boating with Children
Here are some tips for keeping your kids safe while boating:
Be Prepared if Kids Wind Up in the Water
Although the point of being in a boat is to stay out of the water, that is never a guarantee. Your boat may capsize, or your child may jump or fall out of the boat. In that scenario, although the goal is to get your child back in the boat, knowing that your child can keep their head above water will give you some peace of mind, so before allowing your child to get on a boat, teach them to swim and tread water.
Utilize Life Jackets
It is also a good idea to ensure your child has a life jacket anytime they are on a boat. There are different sized life jackets, so make sure that your child’s life jacket is size appropriate – it should fit comfortably, yet snugly, and all straps, zippers, and ties should fasten. Water wings or other pool floatation devices are not substitutes for life jackets when on a lake or larger body of water. Young babies should not travel on boats until they are able to wear an age-appropriate personal floatation device.
If you are on a boat with a motor or steering console, advise your child to keep their hands away from them—only you or another responsible adult should adjust the driving controls or motor on a boat. A child who steers a boat into another vessel, dock, or rock could cause himself or others to be injured. Also, advise your child not to touch the keys, or anything else that you wouldn’t want winding up in the water. Instruct your child to never dive in the water, as you never know how deep an area of water may be, and never swim near the boat or while the motor is running. Reminding your child of these boundaries are crucial, as children can be critically injured if they are hit by the boat, get pulled into the motor or propeller or dive into shallow waters.
Be a Good Example
Children do what they see, not what they are told. If your child sees you jumping, running, swimming near the boat, or diving off the boat, she will think it is okay to do that as well. Similarly, do not drink alcohol and operate the boat – your child or teen will think that it is acceptable to do the same once they are older. Many boating accidents that result in injuries occur when the boat operators are intoxicated. According to the Coast Guard, alcohol was the leading cause of fatal boating accidents in 2015.
Boating can be entertaining, but certain responsibilities come into play when going out on the water. If you are or your child is injured while boating, contact emergency responders immediately.