As the weather starts to warm up, families and friends will be gathering together to enjoy the outdoors, travel on vacation and spend time on the water by boating, fishing or sailing, but the Missouri State Highway Patrol (MSHP) is reminding people that safety precautions should be taken during all of these recreational water activities.
National Safe Boating Week takes place May 18-24 this year and the MSHP is joining the National Safe Boating Council, U.S. Coast Guard Boating Safety Division, National Association of State Boating Law Administrators and Canadian Safe Boating Council in encouraging safe and responsible boating, including wearing a life jacket, and being alert and aware in and on the water.
Missouri law requires children under seven to wear a life jacket at all times while on board a boat unless in an enclosed cabin area.
“Boating accidents occur too quickly for you to reach for a life jacket,” said Col. Ron Replogle, MSHP superintendent. “Missouri experienced 82 boating accidents in 2012, in which 93 people were injured and 10 people were killed.”
Nationwide, approximately 500 people drown each year from recreational boating accidents. Of those, nearly 88 percent were not wearing a life jacket.
“Please pay attention when enjoying Missouri’s waters, and make sure you have a life jacket for each person in your boat,” Replogle said. “Take time to choose a life jacket that fits properly and is approved for your activity and body weight.”
According to Replogle, life jackets are now lighter, less obtrusive and more attractive than ever before. New inflatable life jackets allow the mobility and flexibility for activities like boating, fishing or paddling, and are much cooler in the warmer weather.
There also are many different varieties of inflatable jackets ranging from those that inflate instantly when submerged in the water to those that are manually inflated, Replogle said. All are designed to be more comfortable and wearable than the traditional life jacket.
In addition to life jackets, remember these boating safety tips:
1) Don’t drink alcohol while you’re boating.
2) Know Missouri’s boating laws before you get onto the water.
3) Make sure your boat is as prepared as you are. Schedule an inspection before you hit the water.
4) Check the weather. Know the forecast prior to going out, and check for changing conditions regularly.
5) Make sure you can keep in touch. In an emergency situation, cellphones and having a good float plan, which includes someone on shore knowing when you are leaving and when you should return, are important.
“The Missouri State Highway Patrol would like the 2013 boating season to be fun for everyone,” said Replogle.
Boaters are reminded to contact the MSHP using *55 if they need assistance or observe another boater operating a vessel in an unsafe manner.