How do I prepare for and prevent a boating accident?

The number one most important thing you can do to prevent causing a boating accident is to never operate a water vessel if you’ve been drinking. Nationwide, drinking caused 359 accidents in 2014, according to the Coast Guard. From those accidents, there were more than 100 fatalities.

Even if you haven’t been drinking, an inexperienced or inattentive operator can cause a great deal of damage. In total, operator errors cause thousand of accidents — and hundreds of deaths — every single year. If you are not too experienced with operating a boat, or you just got your license, never go out alone. Have someone watching your back to make sure you don’t make any serious mistakes that could end in disaster.

No matter how safe and attentive you are, the fact of the matter is, accidents happen. Make sure anyone who comes onto your boat knows what to do in an emergency situation. Wearing a personal floatation device (a life vest) is the best way to prepare for a boating accident. However, we know lifejackets are often not comfortable and, at the very least, are definitely not stylish. If you can’t bring yourself to wear it, at least have it within arm’s reach to make sure it is always available to you.

Even if you are not operating the boat, be careful if you have been drinking. It’s hard enough keeping your balance on dry land if you are inebriated; trying to do so when a boat is rocking on the waves can be downright impossible. Remain seated whenever possible. Stay toward the center of the boat, where the rocking will affect you the least.