Although it’s late in the season, boating safety should remain at the forefront for everyone on the water.
Whether boating off the South Shore of Nassau County or the North Shore’s Long Island Sound, having a safe and fun day on the water is the goal. And that includes personal watercraft operators and their passengers.
But boating can quickly turn treacherous without proper precautions, and a commitment to safety.
Every year, more than a dozen people die in boating accidents in New York — with 28 dying last year alone, according to the state parks department. These incidents are not mere statistics — they represent lives disrupted and ecosystems harmed.
To safeguard against such tragedies and to preserve the waterways, boat operators and their passengers should be educated on fundamental seamanship and waterway rules, how to use their equipment properly, and basic first aid.
Knowing what navigational markings mean goes a long way in reducing hazardous situations such as running aground and passengers falling overboard. Equally crucial is the necessity for personal flotation devices. The majority of boating-related fatalities are caused by not wearing lifejackets. Twenty-one of the 28 people who died last year weren’t wearing them.
Boating under the influence is a grave danger. Just as drinking and driving are a hazardous combination, alcohol and boating do not mix. Impaired judgment and slower reaction times increase the risk of accidents, accounting for 21 percent of the boating fatalities in New York between 2005 and 2022, according to the parks department. If needed, designate a sober operator and bring along a non-drinking crew member.
Weather conditions can change rapidly on the water. Check the forecast before heading out, and be prepared for unexpected changes. Even experienced boaters can forget to do something as basic as checking the weather before casting off.
Navigational aids such as charts, radios and GPS devices are invaluable tools. Knowing your location and having the means to call for assistance are critical components of safe boating.
Making safety a priority can help ensure that every voyage is a memorable and safe experience. There are a couple of good months of boating weather remaining. That’s plenty of time to make good habits routine.