Boating Tips to Keep Your Family Safe on the Water

Written by | Updated August 5, 2015

Boating Safety Tips

With summer here, there’s few better ways to beat the heat than a boating excursion with family and friends. From yachts to motorboats to kayaks, getting away on a boat can be both relaxing and hair-raising. In fact, according to the United States Coast Guard, there were around 4,062 total boating accidents in US waters during 2013, resulting in 560 deaths and 2,620 injuries.* To help you feel safer and more secure on your next boating trip, SafeWise has compiled some startling statistics and useful tips.

Flooding or Swamping

Boats going under is a fairly common event in the boating world, resulting in all kinds of losses. Flooding and swamping boats, for example, led to 67 deaths in 2013—the deadliest of the top 5 most common types of boating accidents. Seasoned boaters often keep plugs or wedges made of soft wood to help mitigate flooding. With kayaks and rafts, consider self-bailing boats like inflatable kayaks, or duckies. In the case of canoes, it’s essential that you don’t take anything for granted and actually learn how to save a swamped boat.

flooding and swamping lead to more deaths than any other type of boating accident in 2013


Operator inattention is the top contributing factor in most boating accidents and often leads to collisions. When combined, collisions with other recreational vehicles and stationary objects accounted for roughly a quarter of all boating accidents and a significant amount of fatalities and injuries in 2013. As the Boat US Foundation suggests: “For every log visible on top of the water, there is likely to be two that are bobbing just below the surface.” Maintaining a safe speed and watching out for clusters of objects can help save you and your boat.

  • Maintain safe speeds and keep a lookout for hidden objects below the waterline
  • Maintain a 50 foot distance from other boats, swimmers, docks and the shore unless operating at an idle speed.

Boating Safety Tip: Collisions accounted for about 25% of boating accidents.

Carbon Monoxide

Surprisingly, carbon monoxide poisoning also accounts for a small percentage of boating deaths each year. With the “station wagon effect”—where CO gets pushed back into the cabin due to air pressure—and the ever-present threat of CO leaks entering the cabin, you have to be careful because CO is imperceptible. But CO deaths while you’re boating can be avoided by simply installing a CO detector on board. Most experts recommend marine-grade CO detectors over the kind you put in your house. And Boating Magazine suggests that you replace your CO detector every 5 years to prevent malfunctions.

  • CO poisoning accounted for 5 accidental boating deaths in 2013
  • Install a marine-grade CO detector in your boat

Boating Safety Tips: Carbon Monoxide Poisioning


Not surprisingly, drowning accidents associated with boating are far more likely when you don’t wear a life jacket. Al By wearing what might feel like a cumbersome personal flotation device (PFD), you are always less likely to drown in the case of an accident. But deaths and injuries still happen even when victims wear a life jacket. To help minimize the dangers of going overboard with a PFD, keep flairs on your boat or attach rescue lights to floatation devices in order to better locate and rescue overboard members of your crew.

  • Use flairs or LED lights to better locate overboard crew members

Boaters Safety Tips: Drowning


Thankfully, the leading contributing factor in most boating accidents—alcohol consumption—is also the easiest to mediate. The solutions are probably nothing you haven’t heard before: don’t drink and boat, use a designated driver, and keep alcohol consumption to the shore. These suggestions aren’t particularly original, but they are extremely effective.

  • Decide before launch who’s the designated driver, and set limits for consumption.
  • Keep hydrated and well fed.

Boating Safety Tips: Alcohol

Next time you venture out into the water, make sure safety is at the top of your priority list.

Enjoy the adventure, and stay safe! SafeWise has compiled a few key points in the infographic below to help you do this:

Boating Safety Infographic to keep you and your kids safe on the water

Written by Mike Strayer

Mike Strayer is a writer and SafeWise security expert living in Salt Lake City. He enjoys taking walks with his daughter and live music in his spare time. Learn more

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