Arkansas is blessed with numerous and beautiful lakes and rivers and thousands of Arkansans take pleasure in boating on them. Unfortunately, for a number of reasons, some of which I will discuss in this article, being safe on Arkansas waterways is not always a given.
These are just a few of the tragic headlines making the news this summer.
- July, 2017 – Kayaker’s body recovered from Arkansas River
- April, 2017 – 4-year-old climbs out of Arkansas River after boat capsizes when boat washes over dam
- July, 2017 – Boating accident survivor pushes boating safety after being critically injured by boat propeller
Causes of Arkansas boating accidents
The following is a list of causes of Arkansas boating accidents;
- Unfamiliarity with the river or lake
- Impaired boating (drug and/or alcohol use)
- Distracted boating (use of cellphones and other devices)
- Poorly maintained water craft
- Ignoring a boat’s weight limits
- Ignoring incoming weather
- Boating inexperience
Arkansas boaters should not text and drive
Because I am such a strong advocate of not texting while driving a motor vehicle, I want to point out the dangers of texting and boating. In 2015, the Coast Guard counted 4,158 boating accidents that involved 626 deaths, 2,613 injuries and approximately $42 million dollars of damage to property across the U.S. Operator inattention was attributed to 551 of those accidents, ranking it as the number one primary contributing factor of boating accidents for the year.
Be aware of the risk of distracted boating. Safety officials say the risk is just as dangerous as operating a motor vehicle on the road while texting.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Commission says that sending or reading a text takes your eyes off the road for five seconds. In that amount of time the captain steering a boat while texting sets up a potentially deadly situation for his passengers and other boaters. Because boats can come from any direction, traveling at difference speeds, and drivers have different obstructions like the glaring sun, gusty wind, and lack of good hearing, the outcome of a boat crash is too often critical for all involved.
Safe Arkansas boating tips
Keep yourself, your passengers and other boaters safe by following just a few tips.
- Do not text and drive a boat. It is against Arkansas law to operate a boat while not paying attention.
- Wear life jackets. In Arkansas, children 12 and under MUST wear a life jacket. It’s also a very good idea for everyone to wear one.
- Check the weather forecast before you get on the water.
- Use a pre-departure checklist to make sure you have everything you may need.
- If boating alone, inform a friend or family member about your trip.
- Keep an emergency kit in your vessel. Stock it with flashlights, flares, batteries, first-aid supplies, and enough water and non-perishable food to get you through three days.
- Keep a marine fire extinguisher on board.
- Don’t drink and drive on the water. BUI (boating under the influence) is not only dangerous, it’s a crime that can be just as serious and deadly as DUI.
- Maintain a safe distance between your vessel and other watercraft, swimmers, and objects in the water.
- If you have an emergency radio, and you should, do not turn it down or you can miss important weather reports.
- Do not speed.
- Don’t overload your boat.
- Make sure you know what to do in an emergency. The American Boating Association site contains a “Know Before You Go” page with excellent information on boating safety and emergencies.
- Take a boating safety course. The United States Coast Guard Auxiliary publishes a listing of public education courses by zip code on a number of different courses relating to boating.
If everyone follows these boating safety tips, they can avoid personal injuring in a boating accident and Arkansas waterways can remain the wonderful gift of beauty and pleasure for all those that partake.
If you love to go boating, I strongly suggest you download a copy of The Handbook! Of Arkansas Boating Laws and Responsibilities.
Enjoy yourself, but please, be safe out there!
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